In Ike & Tina Turner's "Proud Mary," Tina used to talk about "doing something nice & easy." Well, every now and then, I like to hear music that's nice and easy. Even if it swings, it doesn't disturb your peace. That's what this collection of solos and duets offer, thanks to Bob James. James composed all but two of the eleven tracks and they are all very sweet to the ear.
This CD is suited to a jazz ballet, than to a club dancefloor. The titles alone are quite "classic." "Alone Together" is the first pairing with Joe Sample for a bouncy uplifting swinging entry to the stage. It has that tendency to bring a smile to a listener's face and bids us to patiently await the next scene. As "The Green Hour" approaches, James presents a ballad that is indeed haunting, but serene and quite beautiful. It has a different "late-night" quality, emphasizing more uncertainty than romance.
The next phase is "Bogie's Boogie," a cheerful melody, but musically serious. James really shines technically here, but never loses his joy of entertaining. The duet "Altair & Vega" with Keiko Matsui moves in stages, much like classical pieces. You'll hear some of the fanciest fingerwork from both. A playful exchange of ideas, but both artists maintain the dignity of the track.
James cleverly alternates between the calm and energetic as "Hum Drum" is like a low-tide wave that gently rocks. While "Last Night When We Were Young" is true to its title as it expresses youth and vitality with a touch of melancholy.
"Dancing on the Water" (title track) is the only duet with guitarist Chuck Loeb, and it brings something a little different to the table. It is a moderately paced dance of creativity and thus exhibits the mastery of both artists. Loeb is a very complimentary partner to James in his treatment of the melody. From the first note to the very last, they are in sync.
Modesty is a short pensive, but colorful musical essay. James draws you into the method of his "madness," if you will. Joe Sample returns for "Tapawingo," and both play with a collective vibrance that fills the air. "Autumn Nocturne" is both tender and sassy and therefore keeps it all very interesting.
"Duo Oto Subito" provides a touch of "cooperative tension" between Matsui and James. It's an intriguing piece alternating mischief and innocence at each turn.
The CD balances liveliness, serenity, joy and tenderness throughout. James could always hold my attention, but this is a refreshing basic work of art. If only some great ballet could be choreographed to this. James and all the great musicians featured here have participated in a project that should stand the test of time.