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Angels of Shanghai by Bob James

As I fancy myself as one who truly loves diversity in musical culture, I found this latest Bob James project quite satisfying to say the least. It is truly an aural treat from one of the truly gifted masters of jazz piano. James truly epitomizes the collaboration of Eastern and Western music directions beautifully here. The array of ancient, exotic Asian instruments just woos the senses. The melodies are clear, unique, and quite illustrative. The imagery is utterly breathtaking.

James brings fellow Fourplay members Nathan East and Harvey Mason (masters in their own right, of course) to meet young musicians from Shanghai to perform on traditional Chinese instruments, including the er-hu (a two-string violin), the pipa (similar to a lute), guzheng (a cross between a harp and a zither), and dizi (different sized bamboo flutes). Boy oh boy! The combination of Western technology with these ancient sounds produces something that one simply must experience personally because I believe it will have a different, very personal effect on every single person. It’s difficult to choose favorites here, although "Dream With Me" and "The Magic Paintbrush" would definitely be among them for originality.

Being partial to the Japanese offerings of Hiroshima and Keiko and Kazu Matsui, I welcomed the Chinese perspective openly and was not at all disappointed. It would take someone like James to experiment with this joyous project. As he says, "I love seeing the universal power of music work its magic to cross borders even when political solutions seem impossible. I invite you to come along on this adventure." I’m with you, Bob, as I’m sure hordes of others will be as well. As for political solutions, maybe you just bridged the gap with this very congenial, appealing, collaboration that speaks to peace more than anything.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bob James
  • CD Title: Angels of Shanghai
  • Genre: Smooth Jazz
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Koch Records
  • Rating: Four Stars
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