Blog Notes

The story behind the artwork

The artwork chosen for the CD was created by Carmen Stone.  The title of this piece is JazzNtheCity.  The piece is fitting for the debut CD as Carmen was very much a part of the beginnings of this project as the idea was born. I met Carmen at a concert in Walnut Creek, CA a few years ago.  At the end of the concert I wanted to meet the bass player, Victor Little who I thought had done an extraordinary job with the band. Victor was local to the area and Carmen had met him several times. When I was waiting to meet Victor, Carmen started talking to me about him and a conversation was struck up about me also being a musician. 

Carmen was very helpful in introducing me to Victor where I learned from him that he put together the musicians for the band that had played earlier to support an artist that had performed. Then the idea had formed.  In that very moment, I had decided that I would take on the role of an artist. This was very different from the approach or path I was on. Rather than seeking out musicians to form a band, I decided I would instead record my compositions taking on an artist role and then later hire A list musicians in the bay area to support my project.

Fast forward a few years... My wife and I had been in contact with Carmen and invited her over to hear the progress I was making on the CD.  She and her husband arrived with a bag that had her artwork on it.  We both commented on the art on the bag to learn that it was her original artwork. Carmen not only helped to plant the seeds that grew into this project but somehow, almost miraculously showed up with this beautifully expressive musical work of art that we thought would be a perfect fit for the project. 

People sometimes enter our lives at just the right time.  The energy and love that Carmen has for music and art and in people touched both my wife and I in a profound way.  

Thank you Carmen!

Love, James & Elizabeth


Cover art: JazzNtheCity © 2002 Carmen Stone

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Blog Posts

CD Reviews 

Coffee Talk Jazz MagazineMarch 2015 Edition
Reviewer: Kathryn Ballard Shut
R. James Fulfills Elizabeth’s Dream
The San Francisco Bay Area-based composer-guitarist delights on ten original tracks featured on debut album, “Elizabeth’s Dream”, supported by veteran two-time Grammy-winning producer, Paul Brown.
On a recent live interview with Ms. Bridgette Lewis of Coffee Talk Jazz Radio, Mr. R. James, (informally known as “Jim”), shared that through his composing, he endeavors to “be able to reach into [his] soul and pull out the notes that sing to [him] as a person”, and on his debut album, Elizabeth’s Dream, an intelligent mixture of both classic and contemporary jazz originals, he has done exactly that.   
Named in dedication to his wife, Elizabeth, who first inspired him to share his talent with the world at large, Elizabeth’s Dream stands in witness to this deep motivation that brought R. James out of musical obscurity and into the limelight of deeply professional musicianship.   The sweet, tender, intelligently-written, and captivating release features a soulful and rich jazz guitar voice that is expertly supported by a multitude of jazz titans, all hailing from both the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.  Furthermore, within the album’s ten instrumental tracks, R James offers an ample exploration of a variety of jazz and funk styles -- ranging from a classic jazz waltz, to Latin-influenced grooves, all the way to funk and soul flavors.
Elizabeth’s Dream indeed cast the dream team of musicians, including pianist/keyboard wizards Robert Damper (Kenny G) and David K. Matthews (Tower of Power); bassists Emanuel Wells, Victor Little (Patti Austin), Troy Lampkins (Temptations), Marc Van Wageningen, (Sheila E, Dianne Reeves), and Roberto Vally (Bobby Caldwell); drummer Brian Collier (Santana); two-time Grammy-winning producer, co-composer, and session percussionist Paul Brown (Euge Groove, Larry Carlton, Richard Elliott), veteran percussionist Derek Rolando (Sheila E, Santana), brass master Lee Thornburg (Ray Charles, Tower of Power), bari & and tenor saxman Greg Vail (Rick Braun, Peter White, Al Jarreau) and vocalists Dee and Brittani Cole of Elament Music Group (EMG), together with EMG bandmate, Lew Laing, Jr. (Coolio), as co-composer on several tracks. 
R. James models much of his style after intense study and detailed interpretation of the clean melodic lines and compositions of the legendary Wes Montgomery, and in fact admits that he tends to work primarily in a melodic framework as a guitarist. 
As early as his teenage years, Jim studied and modeled his style and touch after the guitar giant.  Fans of the guitar legend will immediately witness that homage on the tender and original jazz waltz entitled “Montgomery Land.”  The piece is centered in C minor; however, the keen ear will recognize a subtle tonal underpinning in the turnaround similar to the minor/major surprise shift in the Jerome Kern classic, “All The Things You Are” (1939).  Each of these elements, together with the tight classic rhythm section, immediately take us back in time to Montgomery’s heyday of the 1950s-1960’s.  Jim’s approach to melody also makes every note count on this and every track on the album -- there is no fumbling, no filler, no aimless wandering in hopes of hitting the “pretty notes”; rather, Jim’s execution allows a flawless and spiritual voice to soar, respectfully commanding the listener’s attention.
As mentioned, Elizabeth’s Dream cleverly encompasses the jazz spectrum and beckons us to get ready for a great musical road trip over the course of a perfect day.  The opening track, “Cali Breeze”, delivers exactly what the modern bossa nova’s title suggests – against the backdrop of a gorgeous, sunny, and breezy Sunday, we slowly cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway in our convertible with the top down and feeling completely carefree.  “Road To Heart” pushes our foot to the pedal just slightly with a break-beat funk, reminiscent in flavor to Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.”  On the third track, we pull off the highway and stroll into a roadside church, thankful for the wonderful day, with the sole vocal offering on the album, a gospel-infused” Stay With Me”.  Next, on the light and funky Elizabeth’s Dream, we hop back into the car with a couple of new horn-playing friends whom we met at church, only to watch the skies darken just a bit, tinged with the wistful minor of the tune’s melancholy melody and bittersweet horn lines. 
The clouds part to offer the last bit of daylight with the bright samba “Savanna” and the sun begins to set with the sweet rhumba, “Twilight”.   Day finally turns to night as we find a club where we can dance to the full funk and the group’s harder, edgier sound on “Cool Groove”.  Finally, after our feet tire from dancing all night, we retire to “580 East” to relax with cool drinks and a late dinner, before finally capping off the night with the project’s tribute to classic jazz on “Montgomery Land”.  After an amazing day, we finally crawl into bed, reflect on the perfection of the music we experienced, pray that tomorrow be just as fantastic, and peacefully close our eyes to “Inner Light”.  A perfect end to a perfect day, ushered by a perfect ensemble every step of the way. 

CD Release and Radio Promotion Schedule 

The CD released on March 24 and radio airplay began on March 30. 

As of June 2, radio reach has included the following stations:

Billboard Airplay
KJLU/Jefferson City, MO
WVAS/Montgomery, AL
WVST/Richmond, VA
WFSK/Nashville, TN
KUNV/Las Vegas, NV
KYSJ/Coos Bay, OR
Mood Media Cable Radio/Jazz Vocal Blend Channel
WEIB/Springfield, MA
Smooth Jazz Airplay
WRTC/Hartford, CT
KQXT/San Antonio, TX
WZBC/Boston, MA
Smooth Groove Radio The Vibe (“Cali Breeze”)
WCLK/Atlanta, GA
KTSU/Houston, TX
WQTQ/Hartford, CT
WUMR/Memphis, TN
WCHG/Hot Springs, VA
WHCJ/Savannah, GA
WZZA/Muscle Shoals, AL
WCNI/New London, CT
WVCP/Nashville, TN
KRBB/Wichita, KS
WTCC/Springfield, MA
WOWE/Flint, MI
WNAA/Greensboro, NC
KCCK/Cedar Rapids, IA
WVOD/Manteo, NC
WFSS/Fayetteville, NC
WJAB/Huntsville, AL
WVOF/Waterbury, CT
TMStudios/Music Sampler for In Store Airplay & Armed Forces Radio
KPRi/San Diego, CA
KOKY/Little Rock, AR
WBCP/Champagne-Urbana, IL
KSHK/Kauai, HI
WSNC/Winston-Salem, NC
WUEV/Evansville, IN
WMRT/Marietta, OH


Down the home stretch 

So it's been a bit over 2 years since my wife Elizabeth and I started this journey to create a CD. We are very close to releasing our debut album, "Elizabeth's Dream". We've met some great people along the way who have been very supportive in our efforts and others whom we have not yet met but were a part of the project with their outstanding contributed talents. In chronological order they are:

Carmen Stone
Paula Telander
James Gardiner
Brian Collier
Troy Lampkins

Robert Damper
Victor Little
Orlando Williams

Marc Van Wageningen
Ray Obiedo
David K. Mathews

Derek Rolando
David Belove
Robert Michielsen
Paul Brown
Jacqui Brown
Alex Brown
Lew Laing
Lee Thornburg
Greg Vail
Dee Cole
Brittani Cole
Emanuel Wells
Roberto Vally
Nancy Yee-Chan
Larry Mah
Fenny Widjaja

As Paula once told us, "It takes a community to support an artist." and she was right.  Without the help and support of these individuals, this CD would still be a dream. Special thanks goes out to my daughter, Kerry Zuvella who tirelessly worked on the CD design and to Carmen Stone who came into our lives and shared her artwork JazzNtheCity featured on the album cover.  And finally, a special thanks to my wife Elizabeth, partner and best friend who has stood by me through this effort through the good and difficult times as we forged ahead to make "the dream" a reality.  One last mention, my sons Ethan and Wyatt for their honest critique and patience while they were subjected to hearing these songs over and over and over again.