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Bob James

Bob James in 2004
Background information
Born December 25, 1939 (1939-12-25) (age 70)
Origin Marshall, Missouri, United States
Genres Jazz, jazz fusion
Occupations Record producer, songwriter, singer, arranger, musician
Instruments Guitar, keyboard, saxophone
Years active 1962–present
Labels Columbia
Warner Bros.
Associated acts Fourplay, Bob James Trio

Robert McElhiney James (born December 25, 1939) is a jazz and jazz fusion keyboardist, arranger and producer.



During the 1970s, Bob James played a major role in turning fusion jazz more mainstream. "Angela", the instrumental theme from the sitcom Taxi, is probably Bob James' most well-known work to date. He is also well-known for the fusion classics "Nautilus" and "Westchester Lady", the latter from the album Bob James Three.

For their first joint album release, One on One, Earl Klugh and Bob James received a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance of 1981. James is the founding member of smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay and is a Yamaha Artist.

Very influenced by pop and movie music, James has often featured soloists who add a jazz touch to his sound (most notably Grover Washington, Jr.). While best known for his fusion sound, James began in 1962, recording a bop-ish trio set for Mercury. Three years later, his album for ESP was quite avant-garde, with electronic tapes used for effects. After a period with Sarah Vaughan (1965-1968), he became a studio musician, appearing with Stanley Turrentine and Milt Jackson on the 1972 album Cherry and with Turrentine on his following album Don't Mess with Mister T. (1973), and that same year was arranging and working as a producer for CTI. In 1974, James recorded his first purely commercial effort as a leader; he later made big-selling albums for his own Tappan Zee label, Columbia, and Warner Bros., including collaborations with Earl Klugh and David Sanborn.


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 music, 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. "Nautilus" has been most famously sampled in Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow the Leader", Run-D.M.C.'s "Beats to the Rhyme", Ghostface Killah's "Daytona 500" and Jeru the Damaja's "My Mind Spray" amongst many others and the notes of "Nautilus'" bassline were played on a keyboard for Slick Rick's "Children's Story". The first four measures of "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" (a Paul Simon original) includes a bell and drum groove that is one of hip hop's fundamental breakbeats. Run-D.M.C.'s "Peter Piper", LL Cool J's "Rock the Bells", the Beastie Boys' "Hold it Now, Hit it", Missy Elliott's "Work It,"'s "I Got it from my Mama,", "I Want You" from Common's Finding Forever, and most recently "Take It Back" from Wu-Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams.

Röyksopp sampled his version of the Stylistics song "You're as Right as Rain" for their instrumental track "Eple."

Souls of Mischief sampled "Angela (theme from Taxi)" for their song "Cab Fare."

The title track from his 1981 album Sign of the Times was sampled in De La Soul's "Keepin' the Faith", and Warren G's "Regulate". In addition, James is mentioned in a verse by André 3000 on "Black Ice" from Goodie Mob's second album Still Standing. His "Angela" was sampled in the track "Cab Fare" by Souls of Mischief, an out-take from their album No Man's Land.

The track "El Verano" from the 1977 album "Four" is used as a sample in the song "Blown Away" by the Cocoa Brovaz and also in the Masta Ace Track "NY Confidential".

English Drum & Bass pioneer Adam F extensively sampled "Westchester Lady" on his 1992 breakthrough release Circles.

One's "Night on Bald Mountain" is used in the videogame God Hand, and forms the soundtrack to a level of the same name.

"Nautilus" was used in video game developer Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" on the fictional radio station, Master Sounds 98.3.



As leader

  • Bold Conceptions (1962)
  • Explosions (1965)
  • One (1974)
  • Two (1975)
  • Three (1976)
  • BJ 4 (1977)
  • Heads (1977)
  • Touchdown (1978)
  • Lucky Seven (1979)
  • One on One (jazz album) (with Earl Klugh) (1979)
  • H (1980)
  • All Around the Town (live) (1981)
  • Sign of the Times (1981)
  • Two of a Kind (with Earl Klugh) (1981)
  • Hands Down (1982)
  • Foxie (1983)
  • The Genie (1983)
  • Rameau (1984)
  • 12 (1984)
  • The Swan (1984)
  • Obsession (1986)
  • Double Vision (with David Sanborn) (1986)
  • Ivory Coast (1988)
  • Scarlatti Dialogues (1988)
  • J.S. Bach: Concerto for Two and Three Pianos (1989)
  • Grand Piano Canyon (1990)
  • Cool (with Earl Klugh) (1992)
  • Restless (1994)
  • Flesh and Blood (with daughter Hilary James) (1995)
  • Straight Up (1996)
  • Joined at the Hip (with Kirk Whalum) (1996)
  • Playin' Hooky (1997)
  • Joy Ride (1999)
  • Dancing on the Water (2000)
  • Restoration: the Best of Bob James (2001)
  • Anthology (2001)
  • Morning, Noon and Night (2002)
  • Hi-Fi (2003)
  • Take it from the Top (2003)
  • Essential Collection: 24 Smooth Jazz Classics (2005)
  • Urban Flamingo (2006)
  • Angels of Shanghai (2007)
  • Christmas Eyes (with daughter Hilary James) (2008)

With Fourplay

  • Fourplay (1991)
  • Between the Sheets (1993)
  • Elixir (1995)
  • The Best of Fourplay (1997)
  • 4 (1998)
  • Snowbound (1999)
  • Yes, Please (2000)
  • Heartfelt (2002)
  • Journey (2004)
  • X (2006)
  • Energy (2008)


  • 2005: Live at Montreux
  • 2005: Bob James: An Evening of Fourplay Vol 1 & 2
  • 2006: Bob James Live[1]


External links


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