Boney James does not consider himself a jazz musician, at least not in the traditional sense.
Growing up a fan of soul music, James says he draws heavily on his pop and R&B influences when crafting songs. James' approach to redefining contemporary jazz can be heard on the saxophonist's latest album, futuresoul, which dropped in May. "I just try to be organic and follow the next idea," James said during a recent phone interview.
"What I started to notice was that it started to sound like modern soul music ... It was combining those two elements (soul and pop) when I noticed something was happening."
The album, James' 15th overall, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart and reached No. 41 on Billboard's Current Albums Chart. (James released his debut effort, Trust, in 1992.) "I had a real sense ... I was super excited about the music," James said of futuresoul. "I was real excited about the music as it was coming out (of me). This one was really flowing the whole time and it felt special."
He added, "Each idea was leading to another (idea). I guess you can call that inspiration."
James' futuresoul tour on Friday, Aug. 21, will bring him to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem. Expect to hear a healthy dose of cuts from the new album, James teased. "The stage is the same size anywhere you go. We try and create the same atmosphere (each night) and we're having a blast."
The success of futuresoul recently landed James an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon -- an appearance more than a decade in the making. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, drummer for Fallon's house band, The Roots, performed on James' 2001 studio album Ride. "It was great to see him again," James recalled.
The 53-year-old James joked that the excitement of playing in front of television cameras and a studio audience meant having "a few more butterflies than usual" when he arrived to the taping. However, hearing Fallon say James' name while holding up the latter's record trumped any pre-show jitters. "All night long they (The Roots) were playing my music ... They sound amazing."
James is hoping his appearance on The Tonight Show will bring him to other late-night guest couches. "It is an interesting job being a professional musician. There are more TV shows out there and hopefully I'll make some more noise," he said.
Winning a Grammy would not be so bad either, James added. "I've been nominated for four Grammys. It would be nice to take one home."
Tickets for James' Bethlehem performance cost $42.50, $32.50 and $27.50. Show time is 8 p.m. For more information, visit sandseventcenter.com.