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  • Jonathan Widran

JAMES ROBINSON, New Beginnings

The 12th of 13 children, Silicon Valley raised virtuoso James Robinson was blessed to have the guitarisma in his DNA, with six of his eight brothers playing guitar and offering him a wide array of inspirations and access to top instructors from an early age. Legendary three-time Grammy winning hard rock/metal maestro Steve Vai once gushed of Robinson’s multi-faceted talents for Latin, World, Jazz, Flamenco, Middle Eastern, Rock, “He’s phenomenal,” and he should know. Vai signed him to his Favoured Nations Acoustic label for the release of Colours in 2005.

Over 15 years later, Robinson quite literally marks New Beginnings with his deeply intricate yet infectiously melodic, playfully grooving and accessible debut for Innervision, The generous 14 track set (which includes three unique, rhythmically shifting three-movement tracks, “Cascal,” “New Beginnings” and “Bronze”) is a flamenco fans’ romantic dreamscape, full of speedy runs, easy loping mid-tempo tender mercies, spirited strumming, snappy percussive fire and – saving perhaps the most intricate expression for last on “Sophia” – gently lilting balladry.

From the fast rolling opening strains of “Cascal” and the grooving, funk-tinged “Azul Sky” (which inspired a whimsical Smooth Radio Mix targeted for smooth jazz airplay) through the rhythmic adventures of “Cha Cha Cha,” the dizzy, dancing “Hummingbird” and sexy, sensual “Scarlet Tango,” Robinson offers an eclectic master class in the expansive possibilities of his many acoustic guitars, fretted and fretless bass and mandolin. But if you take a deep listen all the way through, you’ll also catch the vibrant joy Robinson brings to the electric guitar (including a Fender Stratocaster) as a lead voice on the moody, hypnotic “Cobalt Jazz” and especially the blistering jazz/rock fusion jam “One Take For Larry,” a track clearly inspired by the legendary Larry Carlton, who once said of Robinson, “James is an extraordinary talent that deserves to be heard.”

Vai said of New Beginnings, “He is sounding just phenomenal on this record and his chops, tone, not choice, phrasing are all quite stellar.” But don’t take Steve and Larry’s word for it - experience these transcendent New Beginnings for yourself!


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