@ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club
1st & 2nd December 2019
Click an image to enlarge.
Photography – sound check & main performance.
Bob James – piano & keyboard, Andrey Chmut – alto
& soprano saxophones,
George Iweze – bass & Tobi Fatonade
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. He honed his skills working with
Creed Taylor, working on albums for artists like Hank Crawford,
Grover Washington, Jr, among others. While with CTI, James found
great popular success overseeing significant hits for Paul Simon,
Neil Diamond, Maynard Ferguson, and Kenny Loggins.
In 1974, James finally recorded his own album, “One,”
which launched a lifelong career of recording and performing live.
After three more albums, James began his own label, Tappan Zee Records.
This allowed James to spend more time in the studio, focusing on
his own creative works. It was during this time that he recorded
his own gold seller, “Touchdown,” which included his
composition, “Angela”, the instrumental theme from the
sitcom ‘Taxi’, and possibly James’ best know work.
Bob composed all the original music used in that television series
for its entire run. “One On One,” the first in three
collaborations with Earl Klugh, was awarded a Grammy in 1980 for
Best Pop Instrumental Performance, and has sold over a million copies.
During this time, James set the standard for the smooth jazz sound
in the late 1970s.
A different aspect of the musical talent of Bob James was demonstrated
on his three classical albums recorded for the CBS Masterworks division,
the first of which was Rameau released in 1984, and followed by
‘The Scarlatti Dialogues’ & Bach keyboard concertos
with the Pekinel Sisters.
In 1985 James moved to Warner Bros Records, and kicked things off
with “Double Vision,” a collaboration with David Sanborn,
and produced by Tommy LiPuma. “Double Vision” was another
Grammy winner, selling over a million albums.
While recording his album, “Grand Piano Canyon,” in
1990, James reunited with longtime friend, drummer Harvey Mason,
Jr. It would also be the first time James would work with guitarist
Lee Ritenour, and bassist Nathan East. This would be the start of
something beautiful, as these early sessions ignited a spark which
would engulf the Jazz world as Fourplay. Fourplay’s first
album was recorded and released in 1991. The Group would collaborate
on a total of three albums, until 1998 when Ritenour left the group,
and Larry Carlton took over. This version of Fourplay continued
the group’s huge success for seven more albums. After 12 years,
Carlton decided to delve further into his solo career, and the band
brought in guitarist Chuck Loeb in 2010.
A personal and professional highlight was the collaboration with
his daughter, Hilary, on their “Flesh & Blood” album,
which toured 15 U.S. cities. James continued collaborating on separate
projects with Earl Klugh, “Cool” and Kirk Whalum “Joined
At the Hip.” Both albums
were nominated for Grammys. His solo career continued throughout
the 90's, culminating with Joy Ride in 1999, and another Grammy
In 2001, Dancing On the Water, was released, once again showcasing
James’ creative versatility. The album includes performances
with Keiko Matsui, Joe Sample, Dave Holland, and Chuck Loeb. Fourplay
released Heartfelt in 2002, and spent much of the year touring across
the globe. That same year, James released Morning, Noon, & Night,
whose title track went to #1 in Contemporary Jazz Radio.
While appearing at New York’s Blue Note, in February of 2003,
James went into the Hit Factory with Billy Kilson, James Genus,
and Ken Freeman on the board. The result was “Take It From
the Top,” a tribute to pianists who inspired James; Ahmad
Jamal, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson, among others.
The very next year James was at it again, with Fourplay releasing
“Journey” in 2004. Fourplay toured most of the year,
culminating with a trip to South Africa in November of 2005 and
a final tour stop in Bangkok, Thailand in December. This event featured
the world premiere live performance of James’ “The Angels
of Shanghai.” This project encompassed several months in the
Far East collaborating with students from the Shanghai Conservatory
of Music, who played ancient Chinese instruments, as well as James
Genus, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason. This project finally toured
the U.S. in 2007, and culminated with a performance later in the
year at the prestigious Seongnam Art Center in Seoul, Korea, where
James was also invited to have a solo exhibit of his art in conjunction
with the performance.
James stayed busy in 2006, releasing “Urban Flamingo”
in February, and on April 7, was awarded the George Benson Lifetime
Achievement Award by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards. Summer saw
the release of Fourplay’s tenth record, appropriately called
“X.” This tour literally took James around the world
again with stops in Spain, London, California, Hong Kong, Japan,
Kuala Lumpur, and Indonesia.
In 2008, James released a Christmas album with Hilary James, and
another Fourplay album “Energy.” “Energy”
featured Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, and another Grammy nomination
with the first single, “Fortune Teller.” The year ended
on a high note with James and close friend, the Tony award winning
Broadway director Jack O’Brien, receiving the International
Achievement Award by the state of Michigan.
Bob James has maintained a commitment to sophisticated production
and arrangements, while stretching out in different and new directions.
This culminated with another busy year in 2009 with the release
of “The Very Best of Bob James.” Not stopping there,
James also released “Botero,” a collaboration with Jack
Lee, composed music for the Broadway play
‘Impressionism’, and recorded “Across the Groove,”
collaboration with Japanese sax player Masato Honda, all in the
same year. This again led James touring across Asia, Europe, and
2010 saw the twelfth Fourplay album released, “Let’s
Touch the Sky,” which led to another world tour, culminating
with an unforgettable collaboration with the New Japan Philharmonic
in Tokyo in December. This premiered new orchestral pieces arranged
specifically for this concert, and was Fourplay’s first performance
with a symphony orchestra. Fourplay was voted Best Group of the
Year at the American Smooth Jazz Awards to wrap up a busy 2010.
And in 2011, James jumped at the opportunity to work on Jazz for
Japan, a benefit album to aid the recovery of Japan after the devastating
natural disasters in early 2011. Fourplay continued heavy touring
in the far east, with James headlining a special benefit concert
in the Iwate prefecture of Japan raising funds to aid with their