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Bob James Biography

Home > Music > J > James, Bob > Biography

Born: 1939/12/25
Birth Place: Marshall, Missouri, United States
Years Active: 1962–present
Genres: Jazz, Jazz Fusion

Robert McElhiney James was born December 25, 1939 in Marshall, Missouri and is a jazz keyboardist, music producer, and an arranger. A prominent force in the movement and creation of smooth jazz, James is renowned for the complexity of his arrangements and instrumentals, and is a two-time Grammy winner.

James started playing piano at the age of 4, and gave his first public performance at the age of 8. By the time James was a teenager he was playing with his high school band and orchestra. After graduating high school, James picked up piano jobs playing jam sessions with the Bob Falkenhainer quartet. While attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, James roomed with jazz saxophone player Nick Brignola, with the two of them going on to work at the Albany jazz club in New York.

1962 saw James recording for Mercury and then working as part of a duo with Sarah Vaughan. As the 1970s emerged, James collaborated with Stanley Turrentine and Milt Jackson on the 1972 album “Cherry” and with Turrentine on the 1973 album, “Don't Mess with Mister T.”

James also tried his skills as an arranger for Grover Washington, Jr., working on the albums, “Inner City Blues” and “All the King's Horses” in 1972, “Soul Box” in 1973, “Mister Magic” and “Feels So Good.”

1974 marked the release of James’ solo album, “One,” followed by a succession of his collaborations with Earl Klugh and David Sanborn. James is probably most well-known for his 1978 instrumental theme for the television show, “Taxi.”

1981 marked James’ first Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the joint effort, “One on One,” with Earl Klugh. His second Grammy arrived in 1986 for his collaboration with David Sanborn on the album, “Double Vision.” James then went on to form the contemporary jazz group Fourplay.

James’ work has been sampled by a number of hip-hop artists over the years. His song “Nautilus” was sampled by Eric B. & Rakim, Run-D.M.C, Ghostface Killah, Soul II Soul and Jeru the Damaja. His song, “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” has been sampled by Crash Crew, Run-D.M.C, LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Missy Elliott, and The Wu-Tang Clan.