Review by James Walker, Jr.
Silky, soulful sax man, Boney James has worked with some of the elite smooth jazz artists over the past 20 years, producing some real funky soulful tunes. His penchant for working with top R&B artists on most of his CDs is very evident on his latest Christmas CD, "Christmas Present."
It was perhaps his usage of the sultry Chanté Moore on "Santa Baby," Angie Stone on "Merry Christmas Baby" and Anthony Hamilton on "Silent Night" that really makes this CD special and different from most smooth jazz holiday CDs. Other than those four selections and trumpeter Rick Braun's distinctive sound on "The First Noel," this CD would not have been notable. It would have been classified as a nice piece of work that lacks that funky drive normally associated with Boney James. It's a safe work of Christmas music that doesn't stretch Boney's wide ranging creative abilities.
"Santa Baby" with James backing Moore on tenor and keyboards conjures up a vivid picture of Chanté "inviting" Santa down her chimney, while on "First Noel," Braun complements Boney nicely on this traditional Christmas tune. Even more of Rick on this tune would have been welcome. R&B singer Anthony Hamilton's version of "Silent Night" sounds a little like the late, great Lou Rawls, stretching from the traditional version without committing sacrilege. Meanwhile, one of the CDs true highlights is the upbeat version of Merry Christmas Baby," featuring singer Angie Stone. Boney always seems to excel when he's accompanying a vocalist.
If one is looking for a soulful Christmas CD full of traditional ballads, this easy going work of Boney James is right on time. There is only little of the upbeat side, but it is ideal for a quiet evening with someone special to celebrate the holidays with.