This year’s Stanbic Jazz Festival which is coming on, June 24 – 26 at the Accra International Conference Centre will headline Bob James, the two-time Grammy Award winner and smooth jazz keyboardist.
James is recognized as one of the forebears of smooth jazz and is well-known for the complexity of his arrangements and instrumentals.
Within a year of his discovery by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, James recorded his first solo album, Bold Conceptions, for Mercury Records. Fifty-eight albums and innumerable awards have followed in the last five decades.
Bob James has worked with artists like Hank Crawford, Grover Washington, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Maynard Ferguson, and Kenny Loggins.
James has collaborated on separate projects with Earl Klugh, (Cool) and Kirk Whalum (Joined At the Hip).
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 was the beginnings of what the Jazz world knows 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.
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.
Take It From the Top was released in February of 2003. It is a tribute to pianists who inspired James; Ahmad Jamal, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson, among others.
James was awarded the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards in April 2006.
In 2008, James and close friend, the Tony award winning Broadway director Jack O’Brien, received the International Achievement Award from the state of Michigan.
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. Fourplay was voted Best Group of the Year at the American Smooth Jazz Awards to wrap up a busy 2010.
In September 2011, James received the Oasis Contemporary jazz award for ‘Group of the Year’. He was also honored in his hometown of Marshall, MO, with the inaugural ‘Bob James Jazz Festival’.
Fourplay joined forces again the following year with the release of Esprit de Four which several successful tracks, including the powerful “Put Our Hearts Together”.
In 2013 Quartette Humaine was released. This was the first creative collaboration between keyboardist-composer Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn since their million-selling, Grammy-winning album,Double Vision, twenty-five years ago.
2015 brought the release of James’ first live album, Live at the Milliken Auditorium, which was captured on a magical night in his home town of Traverse City, Michigan. This same year also brought the first release from James and Nathan East, The New Cool, a masterful work of art which truly redefines the essence of cool. Still not finished, James and Fourplay came together for the release of the group’s 25th anniversary, with Silver, which was recorded at Sunset Sound Studios, venue of the group’s first album 25 years earlier.