Bob James

Jazz Legend Bob James is an American multiple Grammy® Award winning jazz keyboardist, arranger, and record producer. He is most famous for standards such as "Nautilus", "Westchester Lady", "Heads", "Night Crawler", "Touchdown", "Blue Lick", "Sign of the Times", "Spunky", "Marco Polo", "Courtship" and "Just One Thing". Music from his first seven albums has often been sampled and has contributed to the formation of hip hop.

The career of Bob James is long, varied and continues to evolve at every turn. From his first days in Marshall, Missouri, the music of Bob James has captivated audiences throughout the world. Discovered by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, James recorded his first solo album, "Bold Conceptions," that year for Mercury Records. 58 albums and innumerable awards would follow through five decades. While 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. According to, “Nautilus” and “Take Me to Mardi Gras” have been sampled in thirty-two and forty-three hip-hop recordings, respectively.

Bob James’ recordings have practically defined pop/jazz and crossover during the past decades. Very influenced by pop and movie music, he has often featured famous musicians who add a jazz touch to what is essentially an instrumental pop set.

Born on Christmas day in 1939 (Michigan), the multi-Grammy winner Bob James was discovered by Quincy Jones who released his first album “Bold Conceptions” (1963), a free jazz exploration. After a period with Sarah Vaughan (1965-1968), he reunited with Jones as a studio musician. In the 1970s, he started working on albums with jazz soloists such as Gabor Szabo, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond, Grover Washington Jr, Maynard Ferguson, Chet Baker and Ron Carter.

During this period, Bob released “Nautilus”, one of the most heavily sampled albums in hip-hop that earned him the status of “Godfather of Hip-Hop”! As a matter of fact, James music, especially his early albums, have been sampled often by leading hi-hop artists such as De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff, the Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, Common, Run-D.M.C., Warren G., LL Cool J and Missy Elliott.

After great commercial successes like “Feel like making love” (Roberta Flack), “Angela” (the theme song for the TV Show Taxi), he collaborated with David Sanborn (“Double Vision”- 1986 – Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance) and Earl Klugh (“One on One” - “Cool” – Grammy Award for Best Pop instrumental). He then founded the contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay with Lee Ritenour (later replaced by Larry Carlton), Nathan East and Harvey Mason. Fourplay has recorded over ten albums and has been at the center of Bob’s activities for many years.

Since 2000, he has released several albums including “Dancing On The Water”, “Hi-Fi”, “Urban Flamingo” and “Quartette Humaine” (his second collaboration with David Sanborn) as well as an array of projects with Kaiku Matsui and other innovators. He continued to record every 2 years albums with Fourplay.


Throughout 2016 & 2017 James concentrated on live performances with saxophonist Kenny Garrett or guitarist Larry Carlton throughout Europe, USA, Africa & Japan.


With the completion and release of “Espresso”, his first album as leader since 2006’s Urban Flamingo and a celebrated return to the jazz piano trio format, the legendary pianist is once again in the spotlight and will tour throughout USA and Europe in 2018 & 2019.

James explains:

“I wanted to do this as part of a trio - piano, bass and drums. With Fourplay and in other larger settings, I loved that I could solo and then kind of disappear into the setting to accompany other soloists. To play in a trio requires a different level of commitment, with the piano being much more pro- minent. You need perhaps a greater degree of optimism and bravery. That was how I felt when I first got into music. Espresso is my attempt to recapture that.”