Bob James, who for many years has gained fame and fortune for his commercial pop/jazz crossover sets, on this set returns to his roots in straight-ahead jazz. James is showcased in a trio with bassist James Genus and drummer Billy Kilson, paying tribute to some of his favorite pianists. James' interpretations of nine standards are not necessarily in the style of the pianists, but there are moments when he consciously quotes one of their phrases, including putting a phrase from "Mona Lisa" in "Straighten Up and Fly Right" for Nat King Cole. Along the way he also pays homage to Red Garland, Glenn Gould (the classical pianist liked "Downtown" ), Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Erroll Garner (his version of "Caravan" ), Mal Waldron, and John Lewis. It is to Bob James' credit that he still sounds so natural playing this bop-oriented music; this is one of the most rewarding playing dates of his recording career.
James Taylor had scored eight Top 40 hits by the fall of 1976 when Warner Brothers marked the end of his contract with this compilation. One of those hits, the Top Ten gold single “Mockingbird,” a duet with his wife Carly Simon, was on Elektra Records, part of the Warner family of labels and presumably available, but it was left off.
Jazz has always had a soft spot for pop music. Icons like trumpeter Louis Armstrong blessed the masses with his positivity and raspy voice in 1967's "What a Wonderful World" and saxophonist John Coltrane transformed Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1960 musical smash "My Favorite Things" into a swinging affair. Fast forward to 2014 as singer, songwriter and producer Jose James continues the practice with a fine rendition of 1972's "Simply Beautiful" by the one-time prince of R&B, vocalist Al Green.