Bob James – Angels of Shanghai – Koch Records

by | Jun 4, 2007 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Bob James – Angels of Shanghai – Koch Records KOC-CD-4227, 50:55 ****:

(Bob James, piano & synths; Jack Lee, Guitars; Nathan East, bass; Harvey Mason & Lewis Pragasam, drums & percussion; “Angels” {Chinese guest musicians} on er-hu, pipa, guzheng & dizi)

An interesting and enjoyable East Meets West musical meeting in the vein of cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s efforts, but within more of a smooth jazz style than classical. The idea of the album came about when Bob James was on tour in China and visited the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where the students’ enthusiasm and creativity made an impression on him.   The recording session occurred at the studios of the Shanghai People’s Radio Station. The Chinese lute known as the pipa may be familiar to most readers. The er-hu is a two-string violin-like instrument, the guzheng halfway between a harp and a zither, and the dizi comprise various sizes of bamboo flutes.

The track Butterfly Lovers extensively features er-hu soloist J.J. Ma, and if the final track – Angela with Purple Bamboo – sounds awfully familiar, it’s because it’s really James’ theme for the movie Taxi. In general James’ effort to combine the spirit of American jazz with traditional Chinese instruments works well. It adds a level of musical interest not present on many smooth jazz albums. Some of the selections with prominent synth passages reminded me of Jean Michel Jarre’s Chinese album.

TrackList: Celebration, Gulangyu Island, Endless Time, Theme “Onara,” Dream With Me, Angels’ Theme: The Invention of Love, The Magic Paintbrush, Melodia: A Quiet Place for Two, Butterfly Lovers, Dialogues: The Universal Language, Angela with Purple Bamboo

 – John Henry

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