For many, pianist Bob James will be remembered for his evocative theme song to the sitcom Taxi. But his musical chops are far weightier. A gifted player from childhood, he was mentored by Quincy Jones, who signed him to his first record deal. James was later a founding member of the lauded smooth jazz quartet Fourplay. But Espresso represents his first solo-led recording in over a decade. The tracks are classic James, heavily engraved with his trademark melodic flair. The music is open, upbeat, approachable jazz fusion and softer smooth jazz. Accompanied by Billy Kilson on drums and Michael Palazzolo on bass, James offers up a musical potpourri anchored by catchy, often romantic themes, pop and funk accents, and jazz diversions appealing to listeners of any persuasion. Sonically a recording of purity and naturalism, Espresso illustrates the strengths of the DSD format with a broad dimensional soundstage, a rich flow of ambience, and heightened low-level delicacy. The album is also available as a 180-gram LP, but the vinyl lacks the disc’s dynamism and the terrific “Ain’t Misbehavin’ cover.” In all respects the SACD turns out to be the way to go.
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