Pianist Bob James and flutist Nancy Stagnitta have collaborated on an album, “In the Chapel in the Moonlight.” The title track from that album is a masterful re-working of the 1936 classic by Billy Hill. The instrumental re-imagining of the song plays up the thoughtful interpretative powers of the musicians. The result is the beautiful tones that James and Stagnitta are able to elicit from the respective instruments.
About Bob James and Nancy Stagnitta
Pianist, arranger, and composer Bob James has had a recording career that dates back to 1963. His recording career began as a result of winning a collegiate jazz contest. The win included a recording contract. His first album was produced by Quincy Jones.
James has more than 20 albums as a solo artist. His collaborative albums date from 1979 to 2017. His work with Nancy Stagnitta is his 15th collaborative album.
Like a number of musicians, James began playing piano in his formative years. In addition to his solo and collaborative work, James became a founding member of Fourplay, a jazz quartet that includes bassist Nathan East, guitarist Lee Ritenour, and drummer Harvey Mason. Fourplay released 14 albums from 1991 to 2015.
Throughout his lengthy career, James has earned two Grammy Awards and the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award (2006). James also has a link to hip-hop. His compositions have been sampled or replicated by numerous performers including Eric B. & Rakim, Run D.M.C., The Beastie Boys, Missy Elliott, will.i.am and others.
Nancy Stagnitta is a critically acclaimed flutist, who has also done flute and piccolo duties for Sarasota and Baltimore Opera Orchestras. She is also a flute professor at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. While her career is not as long as James’, Stagnitta has still garnered a number of glowing reviews for her work. While her recording history only dates back to 2014, one listen to Stagnitta’s playing demonstrates the warm tone that she is lauded for. The flutist’s work with James on “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” further demonstrates her abilities to create a warm tone with a high-pitched instrument.
“In the Chapel in the Moonlight”
While there might be other instrumental versions of “In the Chapel in the Moonlight,” there are probably few that are as satisfying as the one by James and Stagnitta.
Sometimes, when songs with vocals are turned into instrumental pieces, something is lost. That doesn’t happen here. In fact, if a person didn’t know that “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” was originally a song with vocals, they wouldn’t know from this version – – and that’s a good thing. The song has another life in the treatment afforded it by James and Stagnitta.
What happens here is that Stagnitta manages to make the flute sound deep and warm. James’ piano-playing is a bit soulful, which somehow manages to call to mind Dean Martin’s version of the original for those who have heard it.
The piano and flute sound as though they are having a conversation. The tone of each instrument pulls audiences in, and makes them curious about the life of the song, and makes them wonder at the richness of sound. “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” as done by James and Stagnitta is a warm rendering of a vocal classic that creates a rich soundscape that gives the song a new life, and not just one without words.