Jazz saxophonist Boney James performs Sunday at Kettering’s Fraze Pavilion



Boney James, performing at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Sunday, July 23, is having one of his best years yet.

Thirty-one years after going from sideman to bandleader, the saxophonist who has had 12 No. 1 albums on Billboard’s contemporary jazz album chart is supporting his latest Concord Records release, “Detour” (2022).

“Every time you put a record out, you never know what’s going to happen,” said James, 61. “The fact ‘Detour’ is my 18th CD, and it doesn’t seem like people are tired of it yet, is amazing. It’s been a pretty great ride so far and we’re out there touring around still trying to spread the word about it.”

For select dates, including the stop at Fraze Pavilion, James will be joined by Lalah Hathaway. The Grammy Award-winning R&B singer was featured on “Coastin’,” which was a hit on Billboard’s adult contemporary and urban charts.

“The Lalah single, ‘Coastin’,’ did really well on urban radio,” James said. “For a sax player to get any airplay on another format these days is tough. I always feel proud of myself when it happens. The song shot up pretty high on the charts. Lalah sang the single, which we co-wrote. It’s always great to have crossover music, and then to be touring with the singer who sang it and be able to do that song in the show has been a really great, fun thing. I think it’s a great package because she puts on a great show of her own. She’s a sweetheart and super fun to be around so I’m excited about these shows.”



Becoming Boney James

Born James Oppenheim on Sept. 1, 1961, James spent his early years in New Rochelle, NY. James began playing clarinet when he was 8 years old and switched to saxophone a couple of years later. His family relocated to Los Angeles when he was 14 and he soon began performing professionally.

While he was gigging and learning to play other instruments, James also earned a history degree from the University of California. His big musical break came when he was hired to play keyboards in Morris Day’s backing band in 1985, later moving to sax. He parlayed that experience into a successful career backing artists such as the Isley Brothers, Sheena Easton, Teena Marie and Randy Crawford. He earned the nickname Boney while working with Crawford and it stuck.

Watch the official performance video for “Coastin’” by Boney James featuring Lalah Hathaway:

Thanks to the belief and support of producer Paul Brown, James embarked on a solo career in the early ‘90s. He secured a record deal with independent label Spindletop Records and hasn’t looked back. The saxophonist’s debut, “Trust” (1992), caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records. James soon inked a record deal with the major label.

Brown, who produced “Trust,” was at the helm for a string of successful Warner albums such as “Backbone” (1994), “Seduction” (1995), “Body Language” (1999) and “Pure” (2004). James, who has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, began co-producing his albums with Brown starting with “Boney’s Funky Christmas” (1996). The musician took over full production duties with his Concord Records’ debut, “Shine” (2006), and has produced each subsequent project.



No end in sight

James will soon return to his home recording studio to begin work on another album for Concord, but he’s currently focused on performing live. He’s also still in overdrive mode and not ready to coast into retirement.

“I recently did a show with George Benson, who just turned 80,” he said. “He’s still out there doing it and that’s something to aspire to. As long as you’re healthy, I can’t imagine stopping. This is actually my busiest year ever touring since I started doing this so aside from the success of the record, the shows are going really well. Honestly, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than being out there playing this music. It’s been a really great time. I keep thinking it’s going to end and it doesn’t end.”

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or donthrasher100@gmail.com.


Who: Boney James and Lalah Hathaway with special guest Damien Escobar

Where: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering

When: Sunday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $40.50 lawn & terrace, $70.50 side orchestra and $75.50 plaza & center orchestra, ticket prices increase $5 day of show

More info: 937-296-3300 or www.fraze.com

Artist info: https://boneyjames.com

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