Interview: Jazz man Boney James is 'Up All Night' and ready for fall tour
Courtesy of Concord Records

Sax player Boney James has been on the scene for a long time, long enough to sell more than three million records, garner four GRAMMY Award nominations, and earn countless accolades like being named by Billboard Magazine in 2009 as one of the top three Contemporary Jazz Artists of the Decade (the others were Kenny G and Norah Jones). Part of James’ success comes from the fact that he loves to play live for his fans, and he’s about to embark on an autumn tour.

Fans can catch James at the Cancun Jazz Festival on Oct. 4, the first day of the tour. Other stops on the tour include an Oct. 11 date at the Chandler Center for the Arts in metropolitan Phoenix, an Oct. 19 gig at Louisville Palace in Louisville, and a tour-ending show at Miller Theater in Augusta, GA on Nov. 20. In advance of the tour, which will promote James’ current hit album Honestly, Boney answered a few questions for us by email. His commentary below is given exclusively to AXS.com.

AXS: “Up All Night” from your latest album Honestly was recently a #1 hit at Billboard and the Smooth Jazz Network; considering that Honestly is a year old, that kind of makes “Up All Night” a “sleeper” hit. With all your success, are you still surprised once in a while when something like this happens?

Boney James: Actually it’s been pretty typical in recent years to release multiple singles over the two years or so in between records. The album has had two #1’s already! That being said, I never take it for granted that a song will be a hit and I’m full of gratitude when it happens.

AXS: You’re a veteran of the Smooth Jazz Cruise and you’ll be co-hosting with Marcus Miller the (sold out) 2019 cruise as well as the 2020 cruise. Tell us a little about your at-sea adventure this year and the fun you had on board and ashore.

BJ: The cruise has become one of my favorite parts of each touring year. The energy from the fans and great music from so many artists in this ocean and tropical islands setting is fantastic. Co-hosting now with the amazing Marcus Miller and getting to play some special shows with him has taken it to another level. 

AXS: Your tour dates this autumn include performances at festivals, at a Temecula winery, and disparate indoor venues. Do you need to change up your set list depending on the venue?

BJ: Sometimes for daytime, outdoor fests we may take out some of the more introspective songs. But really, if we get enough time to play we’ll just do “our” show. 

AXS: You’ve cited Aretha Franklin as an inspiration; did you ever perform with her or meet her?

BJ: Sadly, no. She was always on my wish list to meet and collaborate with. She and Chaka Khan are my two favorite women singers. It was a sad day when she passed.

AXS: With Honestly still producing hits, where are you with plans for a new album?

BJ: It’s just the one year anniversary of the release and like clockwork, I’m starting to get the writing itch again. Hopefully, everything will flow and I’ll have a new “baby” in another 18 months! 

Follow Boney James and find tour dates here.