It’s been said that smooth jazz trumpeters are not very plentiful today. Rick Braun, Chris Botti, and Greg Adams quickly come to mind as being among the major heavyweights. Gordon James shows here that he deserves a place in the spotlight, as well. In Joy boasts a rhythm section that holds down a mellow, smooth groove as James’ sultry trumpet entices the aural sensitivities as well as the soul.
The opening tune sets the tone for much of the album, cool, funky, purposeful and strong on melody. James brings with him the kind of funkiness that refuses to get lost in the shadows of the more prominent saxes and guitars of smooth jazz. His is a sound that drives the funk, beckoning it to his side. The R&B/smooth jazz flavor easily permeates the musical echelons usually reserved for the "flashier" instruments.
The material here is quite fresh and palatable. It features several of the strongmen in smooth jazz, Pieces of a Dream keyboardist and co-founder James Lloyd, guitarist Chuck Loeb, and keyboardist Bob Baldwin, among others. In fact, the album is produced by Lloyd, Baldwin, and James and what a production it is. On this album, James’ association with these and other artists shows it to have been a very positive meeting of the minds.
I was truly hard-pressed to find an unimpressive cut in the collection. For me, that speaks volumes. What he does with cosmic funkster George Clinton’s "One Nation Under a Groove" is definitely worthy of an approving nod from Clinton. "Trumps Up" follows in those funky footsteps. Slowing it down to a mischievously sexy mood is obviously not difficult for James either, as "Sunshine" and "Always in My Heart" prove.
In James’ bio, he states "My music is both funky and lyrical; the arrangements are hip and polished, and the flugelhorn and muted trumpet are perfect for conveying the passion of my compositions." Hmm. Tooting his own horn (literally)? You bet and with just one listen, you’ll see why he can get away with it!