Four-time Grammy nominee, composer and saxophonist Boney James brings his tour to Madison Theatre at Molloy College Saturday night, where he’ll make his only Long Island appearance. Accompanied by guitarist/singer Kendall Gilder, James will play alto, tenor and soprano sax, performing songs from “Honestly,” his recently released album and some from his previous 15-album repertoire.
An eclectic artist, James says he doesn’t like to buttonhole his music into any one genre.
“I call it ‘Boney James’ music for the most part and hopefully it’s distinct to me. It’s a little bit of a genre-blurring type of thing that I do. It’s got some jazz, it’s got a lot of R&B.”
Back in his native New Rochelle, 8-year-old James Oppenheim, as he was then known, hoped to play the trumpet for the school band, but his local music store had none left, and he had to settle for clarinet. Two years later, the band teacher needed a sax player and volunteered young James — the best clarinetist in the band — to make the switch.
“I really didn’t want to because it was a much heavier case and I’d have to carry it to school,” he recalls.
But he did — and found he loved it right away.
Years later, as a professional touring in Scandinavia with singer Randy Crawford in 1986, James joked to the keyboard player Wayne Linsey that everything was so expensive that he couldn’t afford to eat. Linsey replied that he’d start calling him “Boney James,” and the name stuck.
After seven years playing as a sideman for Morris Day and the Isley Brothers, James started writing his own songs and soon made the transition to solo artist.
“Luckily I was able to make my first record in 1992 and never looked back. It really took off right away,” James said.
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPS
Exactly what inspires his music, James, 56, simply can’t explain.
“I get the urge to make something new,” says James, who lives in Los Angeles. “I spend most of my days out here in the studio in my house when I’m not on the road and I’m always practicing my saxophone.”
Though there’s a definitive Boney James sound, every record is unique. For “Honestly,” he says he hopes the songs reflect personal feelings of sincerity and intimacy.
“They all have a different flavor and the melodies and the feelings that I’m communicating are always different,” he says.
Twenty-five years into his career as a solo artist, James has no intention of slowing down.
“I still love it. It’s still my favorite thing to do.”
WHAT Boney James
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday at Madison Theatre at Molloy College, 1000 Hempstead Ave., Rockville Centre
INFO $45-$100; 516-323-4444, madisontheatreny.org
Smokey Robinson at Tilles
Singer-songwriter legend Smokey Robinson headlines at Tilles Center this weekend, where he’s sure to wow the crowd with soulful renditions of his perennially popular hits. A short list of Robinson’s evergreen songs includes “The Tears of A Clown,” “I Second That Emotion,” “The Tracks of My Tears” and “Being With You.” Backed by his five-piece band and trio of singers, Robinson will also render a few surprises with some solo numbers and a cover or two. Perhaps the father of six daughters will share some personal musings on his “Father Daughter Day” — his idea for an annual October holiday in honor of the special relationship between daughters and their dads.
WHAT Annual Tilles Center Gala With Smokey Robinson
WHEN | WHERE 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Tilles Center, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville
INFO $50-$250; 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org