Bob James

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About Bob James

Keyboardist Bob James is one of the most popular smooth-jazz musicians ever, but that’s not the entirety of his story. Born in Missouri in 1939, James was a child prodigy on piano, turning pro in the ’50s. His Quincy Jones-produced 1963 debut album, Bold Conceptions, was a brash mix of bebop and avant-garde jazz, while the follow-up was a full-on free-jazz exploration. His next couple of releases mixed experimental impulses with the fusion of jazz, pop, and funk that would soon make him famous. By 1978’s Touchdown (which featured “Angela,” his hugely popular theme for TV’s Taxi), he’d perfected that radio-friendly sound. James remained a smooth-jazz star thereafter, but detours into classical music showed he still had an eclectic soul. In the ’90s he formed the long-lasting supergroup Fourplay with Lee Ritenour, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason. Over time, James’ funky grooves became frequent hip-hop fodder, making him one of the most sampled jazz artists.

Marshall, MO, United States
December 25, 1939

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