On Stage: Boney James returns to Philly with show at Rivers Casino

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Boney James

Boney James has performed at many venues in the Delaware Valley, South Jersey and Atlantic City. Boney James has released a lot of smooth jazz albums.

This weekend, James returns to the Philly area with a new album and a show at a new venue.

James will treat fans to music from his recently released album, “Detour,” in a concert at Rivers Casino (1001 North Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, www.riverscasino.com) on November 23.

“I released a new album and I’m just having a blast playing shows again,” said James, during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“I started the album in January this year. I hadn’t been writing much prior to then. Then, my label picked up my option – and a deadline. I didn’t think it would be that soon.

“The writing flowed pretty good – collecting the ideas and then diving in. I also collaborated with some friends.”

The last time James played the area was a year ago at Scottish Rite Auditorium in South Jersey when he was touring a new LP, “Solid.”

James is a saxophonist, songwriter, record producer – and one of America’s most popular soul, jazz and R&B saxophonists.

When James released his new album in 2020, he flew in the face of convention – in the middle of most unconventional times.

Most music acts balked at the idea of releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic – knowing that the requisite album support tour would be virtually impossible while COVID-19 was still closing down all aspects of daily life.

“I recorded ‘Solid’ in 2019,” said James. “I made most of it at my home studio in my backyard in L.A. I also recorded some of it at Sunset Sound Studio in L.A. A lot of it I can do at home. I also played some keys on the record.”

James followed the same M.O. for “Detour.”

“I made most of it at My Backyard – 90 per cent,” said James. “Then I went to Sunset Sound for the drums and percussion. It always goes well – never a struggle. The songs felt fresh.”

James fares well in the studio but shines the most on the concert stage.

“I really missed playing live,” said James, a four-time GRAMMY nominee with four RIAA Gold records and career sales topping three million units. “I usually play 60-70 shows a year. In 2020, there was nothing. I practiced a lot. I exercised. It was nice to be home for a while with my wife, who is a television director.

“I put out a record and it did pretty well. When it was released, it was a Top 10 Pop Album on Billboard’s charts. It was Top Two on the jazz chart because it was the same week Norah Jones’ new album was released. I’ve released 17 albums and have had a lot of Top 10 Jazz albums – including 11 Number Ones.”

Even during the lockdown, James took care of his fans.

“I also did a bunch of Facebook live mini concerts,” said James, a two-time NAACP Award nominee and a Soul Train Award winner who was named one of the Top 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade.

“I did one a week on Fridays for about 30 weeks. I’d chat with fans and then play a few songs. I called the mini concerts ‘Solid Friday’ because the album was titled, ‘Solid.’ Each session was about 20 minutes long.”

“When we were totally locked down, I didn’t write at all. When I finally got back out on the road, that got me writing.”

“Detour” is a trip through James’ distinctive contemporary jazz/R&B landscapes, layered in quicksilver watercolor images and cinematic set pieces. Detour represents the next extension of Boney James’ trademark blend of genres which includes blues, soul, roots, classical, art-pop and hip-hop.

According to James, “The urge to write again came from the joy of being back on the road, performing in front of live audiences. I had shut down creatively when the pandemic hit. It was the disruptive and disorienting detour we all took when the world locked down, and that’s reflected in the more experimental directions some of the new music takes. The thing about a detour, you may take a different route, but you still get to your destination.”
James is touring with a five-piece band including a keyboard player from Memphis and a bassist from Raleigh (NC). The guitarist, who has been in James’ band for 17 years, the drummer and James are all from L.A.

“The current live set has three songs from ‘Detour’ – three that I felt would translate most to live performance,” said James. “This is my 18th album, and I can’t get all the music into one show. I try to play everyone’s favorites.

“Some of the must-play songs are ‘Sweet Thing,’ ‘Grazing in the Grass’ and ‘After the Rain.’ I’m always trying to pay my homage to R&B. At the same time, I just try to make my music individual to me.”

Video link for Boney James – https://youtu.be/q3rkzByuwUY.

The show at Rivers Casino on November 23 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $49 and $69.

Chestnut Grove

Chestnut Grove will play on November 23 at The Sound Bank (119 South Main Street, Phoenixville, www.soundbankphx.com) with a focus on its latest album, “The Album” along with a trio of new singles — “No Stranger,” which was released on October 17, “Can’t Stand the Music,” which was released on September 20 and “All for You,” which was released on August 29.

The band has its roots in the Delaware Valley, has played gigs at the Ardmore Music Hall, Phantom Power and World Cafe Live and recorded “The Album” at BarnSound Studios in Newtown Square with producer Derek Chafin.

Chestnut Grove was formed by James Daniels, John Tyler, Sean Murray and Dee Gerhart in 2011 during their senior year of high school. The band’s name was chosen in memory of would-be member and guitar player Matt Barber, who passed away tragically in a car accident on Chestnut Grove Road.

“We’ve been together for more than a decade,” said Gerhart, during a phone interview. “We’ve been touring heavily since 2015.

“We all graduated from high school together in 2011 – Boyertown High School. Our drummer James played with our guitar player John. I was doing acoustic singer/songwriter doing open mics. We weren’t drawn together musically.

“In my senior year, I was in a talent show at Boyertown High. I did some numbers like ‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ with Zach Winkler. They approached me and it rolled on from there.

“We covered a lot of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix. I was the only one singing. We immediately started working on some originals. We were trying to be a jam group but drifted more to singer/songwriter.

“It’s collective songwriting. It’s mainly driven by me and James, but everyone has an input. Each has their own part of the puzzle.”

In 2015, Gerhart, Winkler, Daniels, Tyler and Gary Geers, with the help of friend/engineer Owen McGreehan, released their self-produced album, “Perkiomenville,” to a sold-out hometown crowd at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

“We recorded that album at our barn studio in Perkiomenville,” said Gerhart. “It had 10 tracks with a vert rootsy, Americana feel.”

In 2016, the band recorded the EP “Let it Down” with critically acclaimed producer Bill Moriarty, who has worked with notable artists like Modest Mouse and Philly’s own Dr. Dog. This EP featured a collection of songs including “Whiskey Hand” and “Let it Down,” two of the band’s first hits.

The band released the EP “Black Champagne” with Mad Dragon Records in 2018, signed a deal with Nimbleslick Entertainment, and began touring the East Coast and Midwest. Chestnut Grove has headlined venues including the Trocadero, World Cafe Live, and Ardmore Music Hall, while continuing to gain popularity in their home city of Philadelphia and beyond.

In 2019, Chestnut Grove began recording their first full-length studio album when home from touring. In 2020, they released the single “Golden Age,” which received praise from American Songwriter Magazine. The band’s ambitions for 2020 had also included completing and releasing the new album and embarking on a US tour–goals ultimately derailed by the global pandemic.

Undeterred, Chestnut Grove went back to the studio with producer Derek Chafin (AKA “Chestnut Grove’s sixth man”) and finished “The Album” featuring singles “Golden Age,” “Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Newspaper Hats,” and fan favorite “I Know Somebody.” This album was released in 2021 at Ardmore Music Hall and virtually streamed via Nugs.net, followed by appearances on Radio 104.5 and 88.5 XPN.

Video link for Chestnut Grove — https://youtu.be/sWBiFGvzK_Q.

The show at The Sound Bank on November 23, which also features Good Moring After, will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment