Synthy September gets jazzy! Bob James – BJ4
Hello and welcome back. This week we have a returning guest – Bob James. Last year we featured he and Earl Klugh’s nimble fingers as we listened to their fine collaboration on the album One On One (Tappan Zee, 1980). This week we’ll go back in time a few years to the mid 1970s while Bob James was still on the Creed Taylor Incorporated Records label.
Our album of the week is 1976’s BJ4 (CTI). On his fourth studio album, James is joined by Hubart Laws (flute), Art Farmer (trumpet/flugelhorn), Steve Gadd (drums), Eric Gale (guitar), Gary King (bass), and a massive backing orchestra. BJ4 was also Bob James’ last album for CTI. The third track on the A side, Tappan Zee, would be the name of a new label that James would start for all his subsequent work and the artists he would go on to produce.
Aside from playing electronic and acoustic keyboards, James also used an ARP Odyssey and an Oberheim Polyphonic analog synthesizers. ARP Odyssies were first produced in 1972 and a 2.0 version released in 1975. They were early in their ability to be duophonic – play two notes at the same time – and had several basic effect features.
While the Oberheim Polyphonic was only produced in between the years 1975-79 and was the first synthesizer that could play chords. The Oberheim was created by taking the idea behind the Minimoog and basically attaching several of them together with a keyboard. This created the ability for it to play chords but it also had randomizing effect in between all those Minimoogs and no two sounded exactly alike.
When BJ4 came out it reached number 3 Jazz Album Charts; it aslo contains a super cover of Pure Imagination. BJ4 will be best enjoyed with a dirty Hendrick’s martini.