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Bob James Trio

Mount Gretna, PA, United States

Multi-Grammy winner and one of America’s most accomplished jazz pianists

Time 7:00 PM Admission $5-$100 This concert is open seating by section. Premium Section is the first 10 rows. Standard Section is rows 11-19.
Mt. Gretna Playhouse 200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mount Gretna, PA 17064, United States
(717) 361-1508

Bob James piano, Michael Palazzolo bass, James Adkins drums.

Multi-Grammy winner and one of America’s most accomplished jazz artists returns to the trio genre that got him discovered by Quincy Jones. Whether creating and recording the memorable theme of tv’s Taxi or ascending to notoriety as a source of samples for hip-hop artists, James has left an indelible mark on American music.

In partnership with Central PA Friends of Jazz.   

If you plan to purchase 6 or more tickets this season or tickets for all three jazz concerts, check out our Pick 6 and Pick 10 packages and Gretna Grooves Jazz packages for best savings.

[tabby title=”About Bob”]

From his first days in Marshall, Missouri, the music of Bob James has captivated audiences throughout the world.  Discovered by Quincy Jones at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1963, James recorded his first solo album, Bold Conceptions, that same year for Mercury Records. More than 60 albums and innumerable awards would follow through the nearly six decades.

Bob James honed his skills working with Creed Taylor, and on albums for artists like Hank Crawford and Grover Washington, Jr, among others.  While with CTI, James found great popular success overseeing significant hits for Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Maynard Ferguson, and Kenny Loggins.

In 1974, James finally recorded his own album, One, which was followed up with three more albums before James began his own label, Tappan Zee Records.   This allowed James to spend more time in the studio, focusing on his own creative development.  It was during this time that he recorded Touchdown, which went gold and included, “Angela”, the instrumental theme from the sitcom Taxi.  While “Angela” is possibly James’ best know work, he actually composed all the original music used in that television series for its entire run.  One On One, the first in three collaborations with Earl Klugh, was awarded a Grammy in 1980 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, and has sold over a million copies. During this time, James set the standard for the smooth jazz sound in the late 1970s.

A different aspect of the musical talent of Bob James was demonstrated on his three classical albums recorded for the CBS Masterworks division.  The first was Rameau released in 1984, which was followed by The Scarlatti Dialogues, and then the J.S. Bach Concertos for Two & Three Keyboards with the Pekinel Sisters.

In 1985 James moved to Warner Bros Records, and kicked things off with Double Vision, a collaboration with David Sanborn, and produced by Tommy LiPuma.  Double Vision was another Grammy winner, selling over a million albums.

In 1990, James reunited with longtime friend & drummer, Harvey Mason while recording Grand Piano Canyon.  It would also be the first time James would work with guitarist Lee Ritenour, and bassist Nathan East.  This would be the start of something beautiful, as these early sessions were the spark which led to what would come to be known to the world as fOURPLAY.  As a group, the four released fOURPLAY’s first album in 1991.  The Group would collaborate on a total of three albums, until 1998 when Ritenour left the group to focus on his own path, and Larry Carlton stepped in on guitar.  This incarnation of fOURPLAY went on to release seven more incredibly successful.  However, after 12 years, Carlton decided to delve further into his solo career and left the band.  In 2010, Chuck Loeb joined the band for three amazing albums before his passing in 2017.  fOURPLAY recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with a special edition album and performance.

In 1995, James experienced a personal and professional highlight with Flesh & Blood, a collaboration with his daughter, Hilary, which toured 15 U.S. cities.  James continued collaborating, releasing Cool with Earl Klugh, and Joined at the Hip with Kirk Whalum, with both albums nominated for Grammys.  He rounded out the decade with Joy Ride, and another Grammy nomination.

In 2001, James displayed his creative versatility with Dancing On the Water, which includes performances with Keiko Matsui, Joe Sample, Dave Holland, and Chuck Loeb.  The following year, in 2002, fOURPLAY released Heartfelt, and spent much of the year touring the globe.  Despite the travel schedule, James released Morning, Noon, & Night that same year, whose title track went to #1 in Contemporary Jazz Radio.

In February of 2003, James was playing at the famous Blue Note NYC, and decided to join Billy Kilson, James Genus, and engineer Ken Freeman at the Hit Factory.  The result was Take It From the Top, a tribute to pianists who inspired James; Ahmad Jamal, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson, among others.

The very next year James was at it again, with fOURPLAY releasing Journey in 2004.  fOURPLAY toured most of the year, culminating with a trip to South Africa in November and a final tour stop in Bangkok, Thailand in December of 2005.  This event featured the world premiere live performance of James’ The Angels of Shanghai.  For this project James spent several months in the Far East collaborating with students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who performed with ancient Chinese instruments.  He also brought in James Genus, Nathan East, and Harvey Mason.  A U.S. tour in 2007 culminated with a special performance overseas at the prestigious Seongnam Art Center in Seoul, Korea, for a combination musical performance and art exhibit of James’ art.

2006 was busy with the release of Urban Flamingo and the honor of being awarded the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.  That summer saw the release of fOURPLAY’s tenth record, appropriately called X, resulting an another world tour.

In 2008, James released another album with his daughter Hilary titled Christmas Eyes.  That same year, fOURPLAY also released Energy, which featured Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, and another Grammy nomination with the single, “Fortune Teller”.  The year ended on a high note with James and close friend, the Tony award winning Broadway director Jack O’Brien, receiving the International Achievement Award by the state of Michigan.

Committed to sophisticated production and arrangements, James has always explored different and new directions musically.  This brought the release of The Very Best of Bob James in 2009.  The same year James released Botero, a collaboration with Jack Lee, composed music for the Broadway play ‘Impressionism’, recorded Across the Groove, a collaboration with Japanese sax player Masato Honda, all leading to world tour.

2010 saw the twelfth fOURPLAY album, 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.  This premiered new orchestral pieces arranged specifically for this concert, and was fOURPLAY’s first performance with a symphony orchestra.  fOURPLAY was voted Best Group of the Year at the American Smooth Jazz Awards to round out the year.

2011 brought devastating natural disasters to Japan, and James, with a close relationship to the region, wanted to contribute to the relief  efforts.  This led to the Jazz for Japan benefit album, and the Iwate benefit concert, headlined by James.  Later that year, Altair & Vega was released, a Four-Hand piano duet collaboration with Keiko Matsui.  This unique collaboration took nearly 10 years, and resulted in several memorable live performances, before being completed as a recorded album, and live performance DVD recorded at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.  Still in 2011, James released a collaboration with Savannah guitarist Howard Paul with Just Friends: The Hamilton Hall Sessions.  During this time fOURPLAY was still touring, which included a headlining spot in the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, and receiving the Oasis Contemporary jazz award for ‘Group of the Year’.  James 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 to much acclaim, including the powerful “Put Our Hearts Together”, which featured vocals by Seiko Matsuda.  The song was a tribute to the regions of Japan devastated by the natural disasters just months earlier, and spawned several benefit concerts, such as the Iwate Jazz Festival, and a full length documentary of James’ visit to the region.

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 long time collaborator Nathan East, The New Cool, a masterful work of art which truly redefines the essence of cool.  Still not finished, fOURPLAY came together for the release of the group’s 25th anniversary, with Silver, which was recorded old school at Sunset Sound Studios, where the group recorded their first album 25 years earlier.

While James is recognized as one of the progenitors of smooth jazz, his music has also had a profound effect on the history of hip hop. Two of James’ songs – “Nautilus” from 1974’s One and “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” from 1975’s Two – are among the most sampled in hip hop history.  To illustrate, the title track from his 1981 album Sign of the Times was sampled in De La Soul‘s “Keepin’ the Faith”, and Warren G‘s “Regulate”.  “Angela” was sampled in the track “Cab Fare” by Souls of Mischief.  The track “El Verano” from the 1977 album “BJ4” is used as a sample in the song “Blown Away” by the Cocoa Brovaz and also in the Masta Ace Track “NY Confidential”.  N.W.A‘s “Alwayz into Somethin’” uses a sample of “Storm King” from the album Three.  “Can’t Wait” by Redman features a sample of “Caribbean Nights” from the album Touchdown.  English Drum & Bass pioneer Adam F extensively sampled “Westchester Lady” on his 1995 breakthrough release Circles.  Röyksopp sampled his version of “You’re as Right as Rain” for their instrumental track “Eple.” In addition, James is mentioned in a verse by André 3000 on “Black Ice” from Goodie Mob’s second album Still Standing.

The career of Bob James is truly long, varied, and continues to evolve at every turn.