by Dan Bloom, producer
Bob James has built a satisfying and successful career by adhering to simple rules: work hard, trust one’s self, and be ready when opportunity knocks.
In 1963, James and his trio traveled from the University of Michigan to the University of Notre Dame for a collegiate jazz competition. James intended to play offbeat, edgy compositions without any expectation of winning. He ended up catching first prize and more importantly, the ear of head judge Quincy Jones, who would go on to play a crucial role in James’ life, helping him land the gig as music director for Sarah Vaughan and later, a record deal with Creed Taylor International (CTI.)
The CTI albums were very funky and as accessible as their titles implied: “One,” “Two,” “Three,” and “BJ4.” Unbeknownst to James, embedded in his catchy melodies and deep grooves were the building blocks for a new type of music.
Hip hop producers used Bob James’ instrumental breaks to great success, with classic songs such as like Run DMC’s “Peter Piper,” The Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “Here We Go Again,” Eric B & Rakim’s “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Clap Your Hands,” and Arrested Development’s “Everyday People” all relying on Bob James samples.
When artistic ideas are free to travel and transform, everyone wins, and Bob James has shown himself to be an excellent conduit for this type of exchange during an esteemed career. The world of music is much richer for his contribution, despite the smirks of jazz purists.
His quartet Fourplay has a record out “Esprit de Four” and they’re touring. Find all tourdates here (link.)
Bob James and David Sanborn have a new collaborative album coming out, “Quartette Humaine” and they’ll be kicking off the album release at New York’s Town Hall on June 6 (link.)
Here are the main sets of samples included in the Bob James program:
“Take Me To The Mardi Gras” by Paul Simon, 1973
“Take Me To The Mardi Gras” by Bob James, 1975
“Peter Piper” by Run DMC, 1986
“Nautilus” by Bob James, 1974
“Clap Your Hands” by A Tribe Called Quest, 1993
“Daytona 500” by Ghostface Killah, 1996
“Shamboozie” by Bob James, 1982
“Guess Who’s Back” by Rakim, 1997
Here are two more pairings that didn’t make the final cut:
“Angela (Theme from Taxi)” by Bob James, 1978