Bob James (born December 25, 1939) is a two-time Grammy Award-winning jazz keyboardist.
Though he has recorded a couple of straight jazz albums, most of his recordings contain "pop-jazz" which is a type of instrumental pop music. Bob James was an important figure in turning 1970s fusion jazz more commercial. For their album One on One, Earl Klugh and Bob James received a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance of 1981.
"Angela", the instrumental theme from the sitcom Taxi, is probably Bob James' most well-known work to date.
With his song "Take Me To The Mardi Gras", Bob James secured his place in hip-hop history when the song was sampled by Run-DMC in their song "Peter Piper" from the Raising Hell release. "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" has been sampled in numerous hip-hop songs since "Peter Piper", including Eric B. & Rakim's "Don't Sweat The Technique", the Beastie Boys' "Hold It Now, Hit It", and by Timbaland, in Missy Elliot's "Work It".
Another song by Bob James that has also been frequently sampled by the hip-hop and electronic music community is "Nautilus", being sampled by artists such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Cam and Luke Vibert, and Ghostface Killah. Nautilus has been covered by current touring acts as diverse as Greyboy Allstars and Sound Tribe Sector 9.
Bob James' recordings have practically defined pop/jazz and crossover during the past few decades. Very influenced by pop and movie music, James has often featured R&B-ish soloists (most notably Grover Washington Jr.), who add a jazz touch to what is essentially an instrumental pop set. He actually started out in music going with a much different direction.
In 1962, Bob James recorded a bop-ish trio set for Mercury, and 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, and by 1973 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 collborations with Earl Klugh (Cool, One on One) and David Sanborn (Double Vision). Listeners who prefer challenging jazz to background dance music will be consistently disappointed by Bob James' post-1965 albums.
James is a member of smooth jazz supergroup Fourplay and is a Yamaha Artist. .