Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Hear an Extended Version of the Conversation between NPR's Tavis Smiley and Jazz Pianist Bob James
Devin Robins, NPR
Bob James at NPR's Los Angeles-area studios.
Take It From the Top (Koch Recordings 2004)
Cover for the Bob James Trio CD
For many of his fans, Bob James is to jazz what James Brown is to R&B — the music and the musician go hand and hand.
For more than 40 years, James and his piano have been making beautiful music together. Discovered by Quincy Jones back in 1963 at the Nortre Dame Jazz Festival, James has recorded more than two dozen jazz albums as a solo artist.
He's written musical scores for Broadway and films — and in the meantime, he's won a couple of Grammy awards for collaborations with other jazz musicians. James is also the founding member of the award-winning "smooth jazz" group Fourplay.
Outside the jazz world, James is best known as the composer of the tune "Angela, which was chosen as the theme song for the comedy television series Taxi.
James made his reputation creating music with classic jazz trios — now he's back with a new trio, featuring James Genus on bass and Billy Kilson on drums.
The trio's CD Take It From the Top is a tribute to some of the great pianists who have influenced James' career, including Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington and Nat "King" Cole. He talks about his latest CD, his career and Quincy Jones with NPR's Tavis Smiley.