Upbeat, hook-laden and brimming with improvisation, Bob James’ signature sound has continued to capture smooth jazz fans for the past five decades. His acoustic piano trio is a far more swinging affair, which should appeal deeply to straight ahead jazz fans.
When & Where
It’s A Breeze / Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall, Sunday, November 11 at 2:00pm
Smooth jazz pioneer Bob James brings his appealing hook-laden instrumental music to the Exit Zero Jazz Festival for the second time, having performed at the Fest last November with Fourplay. Joined by bassist Michael Palazzalo and drummer Billy Kilson, the Grammy-Winning pianist-composer will perform material from his latest recording, The New Cool, along with classics like “Angela,” the instrumental theme from the sitcom Taxi and his best known work, as well as tunes by the smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay, of which James has been a founding member since 1991.
Discovered by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, the Marshall, Missouri native recorded his first solo album, Bold Conceptions, that year for Mercury Records. James established his signature sound through the 1970s with a series of popular recordings on his own Tappan Zee imprint, including One, Two, Heads and Touchdown. His collaborations with such like-minded contemporary jazz colleagues Earl Klugh (1979’s One on One, 1982’s Two of a Kind, 1992’s Cool), David Sanborn (1986’s Double Vision, 2013’s Quartette Humaine) and Kirk Whalum (1996’s Joined at the Hip) were also hugely successful. James tackled several ambitious recording projects in the 1990s, including a classically influenced The Scarlatti Dialogues, Grand Piano Canyon (which featured future Fourplay bandmates Nathan East, Harvey Mason and Lee Ritenour) and the jazzy acoustic piano trio outing, Straight Up. His highly acclaimed 2011 album Altair & Vega, a four-hands solo piano project with fellow pianist Keiko Matsui, was followed by a triumphant international tour. A personal and professional highlight for James was a collaboration with his daughter Hilary on their 1995 Flesh & Blood album and subsequent tour. Father and daughter later reprised their musical chemistry on the 2008 holiday album, Christmas Eyes. Other highlights in James’ expansive catalog include 2004’s Take It From the Top, his tribute to pianists who inspired him, including Ahmad Jamal, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, and 2006’s Angels of Shanghai, which had him joining Korean guitarist Jack Lee and some of China’s best and brightest playing traditional instruments in creating a pleasing blend of Western smooth jazz and Asian folk music. His 2015 live album, Live at the Milliken Auditorium, was captured on a magical night in his home town of Traverse City, Michigan.
While the 79-year-old James is recognized as one of the progenitors of smooth jazz, his music has also had a profound effect on the history of hip hop, having been sampled often. Two of James’ songs “Nautilus” from 1974’s One and “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” from 1975’s Two are among the most sampled in hip hop history. His popular tracks “Angela,” “Westchester Lady,” “Storm King,” “Sign of the Times” and “Caribbean Nights” have also been sampled on hip hop recordings.
Cape May Convention Hall Hawk Haven / It's A Breeze Stage November 11th at 2:00 PM