The second recording by tuba player Bob Stewart's First Line Band is even better than the first. In 1988, Stewart's group also included trumpeter James Zoller, trombonist Steve Turre, guitarist Jerome Harris and either Buddy Williams or Ed Blackwell on drums; trumpeter Earl Gardner and John Clark on French horn have guest spots on this CD. The music ranges from the straightforward swing of Don Cherry's "Art Deco" and a good-humored "Sweet Georgia Brown" to a 121-minute exploration of Billy Harper's "Priestess" and originals by Stewart, Olu Dara and Kelvyn Bell. Stimulating and often-surprising music that is generally more accessible than one might expect.
12 is of historic value because it introduced saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who was still a year away from debuting as a leader with 1985's Floppy Disk. One of the more noteworthy albums that Bob James came out with in the '80s, 12 finds him featuring the up-and-coming Whalum on three selections: the funky "No Pay, No Play," the pensive "Midnight" and Whalum's own "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby" (a slightly Spyro Gyra-ish number). While those selections are enjoyable, the strongest tune on the CD is James' haunting, Chick Corea-influenced "Legacy."
Hot on the heels of his commercial breakthrough Touchdown, which contained the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," Bob James teamed up with acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh for the first of two hit duet albums. One on One is not strictly a duet side, however. The pair is accompanied by a band of crack studio types that includes James' former CTI mates acoustic bassist Ron Carter and drummer Harvey Mason and a host of others as well as string and woodwinds sections. The fare is light, breezy, and barely there in places. Out of these sessions came "The Afterglow," which lit up the charts right after "Angela" did, making James the hottest jazz commodity on the scene.