Boney James

Last updated
Boney James
Boney James 2013.jpg
Boney James in 2013
Background information
Birth nameJames Oppenheim
Born (1961-09-01) September 1, 1961 (age 60)
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
GenresJazz, contemporary jazz, R&B
Years active1970s–present
Labels Concord

Boney James (born James Oppenheim on September 1, 1961) is an American saxophonist, songwriter, and record producer.


Boney James is a four-time Grammy Award nominee (Best Pop Instrumental Album, 2001, 2004, 2014 and Best Traditional R&B Performance, 2009) and a Soul Train Award winner (Best Jazz Album 1998). He has also been honored with two NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Jazz Album. [1] James has sold over three million albums, [2] and has accumulated four RIAA Certified Gold Records. In 2009, Billboard magazine named James one of the Top 3 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade.


Boney James took up the clarinet at the age of eight, switching to sax when he was ten. [3] Boney spent his early teen years in New Rochelle, New York and became musically influenced by the R&B Motown genre and saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.. When James was fourteen his family moved to Los Angeles, where he joined a fusion band that opened for acts like Flora Purim and the Yellowjackets. Another member of this early band was John Shanks, now a successful pop producer. [4] James eventually received a degree in History from UCLA, but began playing music full-time after graduation. James learned to play keyboards and in 1985 he joined Morris Day's band. His R&B influence was further strengthened by seven years of touring and sessions as a sideman with Day, the Isley Brothers, Bobby Caldwell, Randy Crawford, Teena Marie and others. It was on the road with Crawford in 1986 that he earned his now-famous moniker, when his physique led a bandmate to joke "We'll have to start calling you Boney James!" [5]

In the early 1990s while on tour with Bobby Caldwell's band James met engineer and producer Paul Brown, beginning a 10-year period of collaboration. In 1992 Boney released his debut album as a leader, Trust, on the independent record label Spindletop Records. Following the record's success, James was signed by the Warner Brothers label in 1994. He released the RIAA Certified Gold Records, Seduction, Sweet Thing and Body Language on Warner Brothers.

In 2000 he collaborated with trumpeter Rick Braun on an album called Shake it Up. Their duets include the now classic updated version of Hugh Masakela's "Grazin' in the Grass". Other artists who have made guest appearances on Boney's records include Raheem DeVaughn, Faith Evans, George Benson, George Duke, Dwele, Al Jarreau, Philip Bailey, Anthony Hamilton, Jaheim, Eric Benét, Dave Hollister, Stokley Williams, Avery*Sunshine, Kenny Lattimore and Angie Stone.

James began co-producing his records with Brown in 1997, and assumed the role of sole producer starting with his Grammy-nominated Pure album in 2003. Following a string of chart-topping albums, in 2006 James moved to Concord Records [4] and released Shine which posted his career highest Billboard Pop Chart position to that date (No. 44 on the Top 200). His 2009 album, Send One Your Love earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance. James' 2013 album The Beat received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

On May 15, 2010, James was involved in a car crash coming home from a performance when he was rear ended by a drunk driver. James suffered a fractured jaw, two shattered teeth and facial lacerations. He was sidelined for two months. [6]

In 2014, James produced two songs on Al Jarreau's George Duke tribute album My Old Friend , "No Rhyme No Reason" (feat. Kelly Price) and "Bring Me Joy" (feat. George Duke). [7]

In 2015, he released futuresoul (featuring production work from Nutty P Beats) which spent eleven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart. futuresoul was the bestselling Contemporary Jazz Record of 2015. [8] In August 2015, James made his first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon .

2017 saw the release of Honestly, his 16th album (which also featured production from Nutty P Beats). The record became James' eleventh No. 1 on the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart and also reached No. 22 on the Billboard Current Albums Chart, his highest pop chart debut to date. [9]

June 2020 Boney released his 17th studio album Solid. Boney James described the record as "a reaction to how stressful the world feels these days. Music is a respite, it’s always ‘solid’ and it never lets me down." [10] The CD broke his previous Pop Chart record, debuting at #10 on the Billboard Top Albums Chart. [11]

Boney James is married to actress and director Lily Mariye. In 2012 he contributed an original score to her feature film directorial debut, Model Minority. [12]


Related Research Articles

George Duke American musician

George M. Duke was an American keyboardist, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer. He worked with numerous artists as arranger, music director, writer and co-writer, record producer and as a professor of music. He first made a name for himself with the album The Jean-Luc Ponty Experience with the George Duke Trio. He was known primarily for thirty-odd solo albums, of which A Brazilian Love Affair from 1979 was his most popular, as well as for his collaborations with other musicians, particularly Frank Zappa.

Al Jarreau American rhythm and blues singer

Alwin Lopez Jarreau was an American singer and musician. His 1981 album Breakin' Away spent two years on the Billboard 200 and is considered one of the finest examples of the Los Angeles pop and R&B sound. The album won Jarreau the 1982 Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In all, he won seven Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more during his career.

<i>Chicago</i> (album) 1970 studio album by Chicago

Chicago is the second studio album by Chicago-based American rock band Chicago. Like their debut album, Chicago Transit Authority, this was a double album. It was their first album under the name Chicago and the first to use the now ubiquitous cursive Chicago logo on the cover. Released in January 1970 on Columbia Records, Chicago was commercially successful. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in April of the same year of its release, and certified platinum in 1991. It reached No. 4 on the album charts in the United States and No. 6 on the album charts in the UK, and produced three top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The album received three Grammy Award nominations - for Album of the Year, Contemporary Vocal Group, and Best Album Cover. It was voted best album of 1970 by readers of Cash Box magazine, and the 1971 best small-combo LP by readers of Playboy magazine.

Maurice White American musician, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire

Maurice White was an American singer, musician, songwriter, and record producer. He was the founder, leader, main songwriter, and producer of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, and served as the band's co-lead singer with Philip Bailey. Described as a "visionary" by Vibe and a "mastermind" by Variety, White was nominated for a total of 22 Grammys, of which he won seven. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, and was also inducted individually into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He additionally worked with artists such as Deniece Williams, Cher, The Emotions, Barbra Streisand, Ramsey Lewis, and Neil Diamond.

Philip Bailey American R&B, soul, gospel and funk singer

Philip James Bailey is an American R&B, soul, gospel and funk singer, songwriter and percussionist, best known as an early member and one of the two lead singers of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. Noted for his four-octave vocal range and distinctive falsetto register, Bailey has won seven Grammy Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire. Bailey was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for his work with the band.

Regina Belle American singer–songwriter and actress

Regina Elaine Belle is an American singer-songwriter who started her career in the mid-1980s. Known for her singles "Baby Come to Me" (1989) and "Make It Like It Was" (1990), Belle's most notable for two hit duets, both with Peabo Bryson: "Without You", the love theme from the comedy film Leonard Part 6, recorded in 1987 and "A Whole New World", the main theme of the Disney's animated feature film Aladdin, recorded in 1992, with which Belle and Bryson won the Grammy award. The theme song "Far Longer than Forever" from the animated movie The Swan Princess, performed with Jeffrey Osborne, was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1995 for Best Original Song.

Jay Joseph Graydon is an American songwriter, recording artist, guitarist, singer, producer, arranger, and recording engineer. He is the winner of two Grammy Awards with twelve Grammy nominations, among them the title "Producer of the Year" and "Best Engineered Recording". He has mastered many different music styles and genres, and his recordings have been featured on record, film, television and the stage.

Jeff Lorber Musical artist

Jeffrey H. Lorber is an American keyboardist, composer, and record producer. After six previous nominations, Lorber won his first Grammy Award on January 28, 2018 for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for Prototype by his band The Jeff Lorber Fusion.

"Watermelon Man" is a jazz standard written by Herbie Hancock for his debut album, Takin' Off (1962).

Charles Randolph Goodrum is an American songwriter, pianist, and producer. A Grammy award-nominated writer and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Goodrum has written #1 songs in each of the four decades since his first #1 hit, 1978's "You Needed Me."

<i>Double Vision</i> (Bob James and David Sanborn album) 1986 studio album by Bob James and David Sanborn

Double Vision is a 1986 album by Bob James and David Sanborn. The album was a successful smooth jazz release receiving frequent airplay. The original album was released in the US on May 19, 1986, Warner Bros, Cat No: 25393. It was released a week later in the UK.

Greg Kurstin American record producer and songwriter

Gregory Allen Kurstin is an American record producer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter. He has won eight Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year, Non-Classical twice in 2017 and 2018.

<i>Breakin Away</i> (album) 1981 studio album by Al Jarreau

Breakin' Away is an album by Al Jarreau, released on June 30, 1981, through the Warner Bros. Records label. To quote Allmusic, "Breakin' Away became the standard bearer of the L.A. pop and R&B sound."

<i>This Time</i> (Al Jarreau album) 1980 studio album by Al Jarreau

This Time is the fourth studio album by Jazz vocalist Al Jarreau, released in 1980 on Warner Bros. Records. The release marked a change in Jarreau's sound to a more R&B-oriented flavor. As a result, the album achieved more success on the mainstream charts than his previous works, while also topping the Jazz Charts. It also reached No. 6 on the R&B charts and No. 27 on the Billboard 200." In 1981 "Never Givin' Up" gave Jarreau a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

<i>L Is for Lover</i> 1986 studio album by Al Jarreau

L Is for Lover is a studio album by Al Jarreau, released in September 1986 on Warner Bros. Records. It reached #30 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart, #9 on the Traditional Jazz Albums chart, and #17 on the Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.

Clarence "Mac" McDonald was a Los Angeles-based American pianist, composer, arranger, and producer. McDonald was known for his musical diversity, enduring melodies and signature groove. His most famous composition is Silly sung by Deniece Williams in 1981 and Taral Hicks in 1997. In 2010, the song's instrumental intro and bridge were sampled in Monica's seven week-long Billboard No. 1 R&B Grammy nominated song "Everything To Me". He worked with a long list of entertainment icons including Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Justin Timberlake, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Carole King, Taral Hicks, Freddy Hubbard, Nancy Wilson, Boz Scaggs, Seals & Crofts, Bill Withers, and the Jackson 5. McDonald performed on the all-star benefit album Jazz For Japan, released in September 2011.

Dont Let Me Be Lonely Tonight 1972 single by James Taylor

"Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter James Taylor, from his 1972 album One Man Dog. It was released as the lead single from the album, and peaked at No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on January 13, 1973. It also reached No. 3 Easy Listening. In Canada, the song reached No. 18 on the Pop Singles chart and No. 7 AC.

Robert Brookins was an American singer, songwriter, producer and musician. Brookins was a member of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. He also worked with artists such as George Duke, Stephanie Mills, Stanley Clarke and The Whispers.

<i>Duke</i> (George Duke album) 2005 studio album by George Duke

Duke is the twenty-eighth studio album by American keyboardist and record producer George Duke. The single "T-Jam" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Gregg Field is an American record producer and musician, who has worked with many well-known artists. He is a recipient of multiple Grammy and Emmy awards.


  1. "Complete list of nominees for the 45th NAACP Image Awards". Los Angeles Times. January 9, 2014.
  2. "SAN MANUEL: Boney James takes 'The Beat' to the stage". 7 February 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  3. "Boney James 2007". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  4. 1 2 "Boney James". Billboard. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  5. Kohlhaase, Bill (December 23, 1994). "No Plain James : Boney, a Nickname He Got During Lean Years as a Touring Musician, Stuck; Now He wants to Make His Name as a Saxman With 'Backbone'". Los Angeles Times.
  6. Rodgers, Larry (May 18, 2010). "Sax man Boney James hurt in car crash". The Arizona Republic.
  7. "Al Jarreau Salutes George Duke on New Star-Packed Album". Billboard. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  8. "Contemporary Jazz Albums : Jan 04, 2018 - Billboard Chart Archive". Billboard. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  9. "Boney James' New Album HONESTLY Debuts at #1". Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  10. "Q&A with Boney James: A Smooth Jazz Icon's 'Solid' Sound Stands the Test of Time".
  11. "Chloe x Halle, Gone West, Boney James Debut On Billboard Artist 100 Chart".
  12. "Model Minority: The Movie". Retrieved 4 January 2018.