Today isn’t just Christmas Day, it’s Robert McElhiney James aka Bob James 83rd birthday, he was born on Christmas Day 1939.

Bob has always been very generous with his time when it comes to interviews. I loved the practice sessions Bob did during the pandemic where you could hear the espresso machine, followed by a short physical warm-up and then Bob would appear on the zoom screen, coffee short shot in hand and he’d sit and the piano describe what he’d play and start.

Equally there are loads of interviews Bob has given over the last 10+ years on YouTube and podcasts, most of them asking about how he started and his influence on hip-hop etc. What’s missing though is an interview with Bob in his prime. I’ve set the hot-tub time machine to 1980 and with the help of WNEW-FM Morning radio show Dave Herman[1]Yes, Herman’s legacy was destroyed in his final years, but that doesn’t diminish the value of this interview.[2] we can hear Bob at a key point in his career.

As Creed’s CTI castle started to collapse, burdened by debt from bailing out a couple of bad distribution deals, royalty payments were missed, distributors were not being paid, and Esther Phillips showed up at the office with a baseball bat under her full length fur coat. Other artists started working on their own exit strategies, George Benson, Grover Washington, Seawind and Bob James all set the legal-eagles on CTI.

James separation would be relatively clean. He would take the masters for his four CTI albums and join CTI alumni John Schneider, Peter Paul, as well as Hubert Laws at Columbia Records(CBS). In just ten years, James had gone from a relatively unknown arranger for Sarah Vaughan to a jazz powerhouse with his own label imprint, Tappan Zee, at Columbia.

Bob James, Oakland 1976 – Picture by Tom Coppi

Without further ado, here’s Bob James from 1980.

Bob James/Dave Herman Interview, Tappan Zee Records – AS 1299; released: 1981[3]

You can download a copy by using the three dots menu on the right of the audio player.

Bob James would go on to emulate many of the things Taylor did with CTI, including a large scale summer tour big band that did not fair as well or have the durability of the CTI All-Stars. Snyder would go on to start his own productions with A&M Horizon and found the label Artists House. Snyder and James would later be dismissive of a comparison with CTI.

Here is my 2019 Bob James mix, details on the tracks included are here.

In the coming week I hope to have an additional post on Bob James post with live sets from his 1979 All Around Town tour.


1 Yes, Herman’s legacy was destroyed in his final years, but that doesn’t diminish the value of this interview.

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