Monday 3 January 2022

'Feel Like Making LIVE!' by Bob James Trio

When considering the latest release from the iconic Bob James, there's a quote from Alexander McQueen that seems an apt way to kick this off, "It's good to know where you come from.  It makes you what you are today."  

There's a lot of variations to that quote attributed to a variety of great minds and thinkers from Maya Angelou to Lewis Carroll but whichever one you pick, it's a sentiment that rings true in regards to this incredible new project.  Courtesy of evosound, pianist and composer, Bob James, continues with his current trio formation comprised of drummer Billy Kilson and bassist Michael Palazzolo for an exquisite, live recounting of some of the gems that date back to James' debut album release 'Bold Conceptions' in 1963. 

Much has often been made about the impact that Bob James' music has had on hip-hop over the years.  While revered classics by James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes have always served as obvious sources for inspiration for a range of 90s hip-hop DJs and producers including Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Erick Sermon, countless compositions by Bob James have served as the building blocks for countless more 90s releases.  

Naturally, this conversation dates back to an era of sampling before legislation had come into force so it was naturally understandable for artists to not be thrilled at hearing their music employed in ways that was tantamount to theft; but hip-hop's use of sampling could very much be argued to have given back to artists in ways perhaps people never fully realised.  For devoted fans who had become accustomed to trawling through the inlay cards of albums to pick out names of collaborators and producers of tracks - just like this very reviewer did - their path would inevitably lead them to those very architects whose music formed the basis of tracks all of those years later.  For a generation of music fan, hip-hop's greatest gift was the introduction of those aforementioned soul legends but also the introduction to jazz via the works of Roy Ayers, Bobby Hutcherson, Ronnie Laws and of course... Bob James.

'Angela' (or more commonly referred to as the "theme from Taxi") formed the basis to 'Cab Fare' by the Souls of Mischief; 'Westchester Lady' was famously adopted by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince; James' version of 'Feel Like Making Love' became another of several songs sampled by Onyx, and 'Night Crawler' would be sampled by MC Eight and Mic Geronimo.  And then of course there's 'Nautilus' which currently references as being sampled by 365 songs having informed classics by Slick Rick, Eric B & Rakim and Ghostface Killah.  The impact of 'Nautilus' beyond hip-hop is worthy of another thesis all of its own as well when examining interpretations by Kenny Dope and Louie Vega's Nuyorican Soul project in 1997 to that of the Japanese jazz trio, Nautilus (actually named as tribute to the song) in 2017 through Agogo Records.

And this is really why the article's opening quote holds relevance... while the music naturally is being created as a tribute to Bob James and his glorious catalogue - which has warranted the right to be celebrated a hundred times over - the project also serves as an unintentional love letter to hip-hop.  These inspired interpretations that make-up 'Feel Like Making LIVE!' reintroduce you to the songs you may have come to know and love over the years but for many others, they may conjure up memories just as exciting while you consider the original path that led you to their discovery in the first place.

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