Quartette Humaine is an unlikely sequel. In 1986 Bob James and David Sanborn, both jazz musicians and "first call" session men for a long list of artists, collaborated on an album called Double Vision . It was a hit, and picked up a Grammy nomination for guest artist Al Jarreau, for best male R&B vocal performance on the track Since I Fell for You . It says much about the style of the release that the nomination was in that category. "Smooth jazz" - odious term that it is - had not then emerged as a distinct genre, but Double Vision fits right into it. You might then assume that the resumption of the partnership, after a 26-year hiatus, would take a fairly similar form. As it turns out, not so. Both musicians are perhaps now at a stage in their careers at which their credibility as artists is more important to them than record sales. In recent years, in parallel with his middle-of-the-road gig as a Fourplay member, James has made a number of classical, straight-ahead jazz and world music recordings - including his 2006 Angels of Shanghai album with musicians from the Shanghai Conservatory. Sanborn, with albums such as 2008's Here and Gone , has moved away from the "fusion" and "smooth jazz" categories back to his blues roots. For their reunion, James and Sanborn have opted for a straight-ahead jazz quartet album, intended as a tribute to pianist Dave Brubeck and saxophonist Paul Desmond. It was recorded shortly after Brubeck's death, although the tribute idea predated his passing. "I felt - and I still do when I listen to the Brubeck Quartet - that they were taking us on an adventure, and some of the adventure was challenging," says James. "Just when you thought you knew where you were going, they would go somewhere different." Quartette Humaine doesn't really sound like vintage Brubeck - although James did record with Desmond in the 1970s. Here or elsewhere there is not much risk of confusing Desmond's sound, which he famously likened to a dry martini, with Sanborn's. The usual R&B honks and squeaks are much less in evidence here than usual, but even so he still sounds a lot more like King Curtis than Desmond. Completing the line-up are the redoubtable James Genus on bass, and the same drummer as on Double Vision , Steve Gadd. It is probably fair to say that a lot of James and Sanborn's respective fans will find this music puzzling. James says the Brubeck Quartet were the inspiration for the acoustic quartet format, although in the planning stages he had envisaged a more heavily produced record. However, Sanborn had other ideas. "We talked about the interplay of Brubeck's quartet with Paul Desmond," he says. "Coming from that, I assumed we'd make a quartet date. I like being able to really hear all the individual instruments. We had this beautiful nine-foot grand piano, and you can hear its sound ring out." Some tracks are more self-consciously Brubeck referential than others, particularly the opener You Better Not Go to College , the title of which echoes the Brubeck album Jazz Goes to College . Sanborn may not sound like Desmond but, having worked with both players, James believes there are affinities, particularly in their approach to playing ballads such as My Old Flame . "Dave has a similar capability to Paul Desmond in that the lyric quality of the way they play takes it into an emotional-romantic concept rather than an intellectual one," he says. Is this music "challenging" in the way the Brubeck Quartet were in their prime? Not really, but it's an enjoyable set which stretches James and Sanborn a lot further than the easy listening material with which they are mostly associated. The band are touring to support the album, and gigs have been booked for Tokyo in September. Sadly, nothing is scheduled for Hong Kong. Take Three Three other albums featuring David Sanborn and Bob James playing outside the "smooth jazz" zone. Bold Conceptions (1963, Verve/Mercury): there is no indication at all on James' first album of the musical wallpaper to come. This is a hard bop piano trio set with a couple of James originals rubbing shoulders with tunes by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, among others. Still Crazy After All These Years (1975, Columbia): Paul Simon assembled an all-star cast of jazz musicians and top session players for this double Grammy winning album. James, Sanborn and Steve Gadd are among them, although it's Michael Brecker who plays the memorable saxophone solo on the title track. Only Everything (2010, Decca): Sanborn and Gadd join forces with organist Joey DeFrancesco for a remarkably soulful tribute to Ray Charles' saxophonists Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman.