By likemindblog

Bob-James-portrait-A.jpg 1

From Marshall, Missouri, Bob James’ career is long, varied and continues to evolve.  It has been said that he has the midas touch and an unconventional approach to all his work.  Bob recorded his first solo album in 1963 and has since recorded 36 more solo albums over four decades, not to mention so many other projects he’s been involved with.

Mr. James, Bob, thank you so much for participating in this project.  It is an honour to do this article with you.  

No. 1)  What is music to and for you?  (generally and personally)

I don’t know exactly when it happened, or when I realized it, but music became my life. Now I can’t separate it. It’s not a hobby, not a business, it’s my life. I say often that I have no regrets for choosing this life. It has treated me well. Now it provides meaning for me. It is a way of communicating without words. I feel that I can get closer & deeper to real meaning when I express myself through music.

No. 2)  What inspires you? bob_james_275x280

The piano inspires me….it becomes an extension of my body. When I sit down to the piano, I become different. My fingers feel different. The piano can also make me frustrated. If it’s a bad instrument, out of tune, not harmonious… then I can’t express the things I hear in my head.   It feels like my body has become sick.  

Also, other music, other musicians inspire me. When I discover some inspired thing they created, it inspires me to discover something new. Not to copy what they did, but an awareness that there are always new places to go, new adventures.

No. 3)  When you are creating, playing, where does it take you?  I mean where does your mind travel?

It’s a world without words, so it’s impossible to answer it with words. Of course we try. We write music about vacation islands, about romance, about dreams. But I rarely compose vocal music. And instrumental music is abstract, so my mind takes me to abstract places. It’s comfortable there because I escape from the world of words.

No. 4)  Do you think music, visual arts and health are related and if so, how?

Yes, I think I make better music if I’m healthy. So I try to maintain a reasonable healthy life style. I become very inspired by any beautiful expression of art. Paintings, sculpture, theatre, dance…all inspire me. They make me realize how important my role can be to inspire and bring positive feelings to others.

Bob James Four Play - TadeoNo. 5)  How do you feel when you are playing just for yourself, versus playing for an audience?

Sometimes it’s easier for me to experiment when I’m alone. I just go wherever my mind takes me. It doesn’t matter if I make mistakes, or that the results may be uninspired. I can often find things, or get hints of interesting sounds, fun places to go. It’s not always possible, but sometimes I try to bring that same feeling to live performance. The most thrilling aspect of jazz for me is the improvising. I love to let my mind go blank onstage, and let the audience share that feeling of listening to me go into unknown territory. I believe they instinctively understand when I’m being vulnerable, as opposed to just playing something that I’ve repeatedly practiced until I can play it perfectly.

No. 6)  Under what conditions do you work best (alone, night, day)

For composing…..and practicing….. I like the early mornings, sometimes as early as 5 AM. It’s peaceful, quiet, no phone calls, etc. After an espresso my mind feels fresh & energetic!

For performing, mostly because it’s the conventional expected time, I adjust my schedule so that I can have energy in the evenings. The audience seems more relaxed and ready to have a good time.

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level? 

I constantly work toward being natural and honest with my music so that, at its best, it’s a reflection of who I am. I want to share my own emotions through my music.

No. 8)  Does playing help you connect with your higher self,53398758DVqKNe_fs whatever that may be for you? 

When I’m playing the piano under good circumstances….with a great instrument, in perfect tune, with a group of responsive musicians…’s the most spiritual time for me. I try to reach as far as I can into my inner soul.

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school systems?

I’m certainly not an expert in that area. Many times I wish I could have devoted more time to teaching. I see many examples of how the arts are relatively neglected, especially during tough economic times. Allowing a child to be creative gives them the possibility of opening up, and learning their own feelings. Yes, it’s important to learn classic universal values, but each child is different. And they should be encouraged to explore their differences.

No. 10)  In your opinion, what could be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school systems?

The simplest answer would be to increase the budgets….hire better more creative teachers.

No. 11)  You’ve touched on improvisation, can you elaborate more on how you feel about it?1249825246_bob

True improvisation, allows a performer to have the most direct communication with the listener. The listener is on a more equal footing, because neither they nor the performer know what’s coming next. The listener realizes that the performer is vulnerable….expressing real thoughts, even though they may not be fully formed or executed.

I believe the listener can always tell the difference between when a performer is really improvising, or just playing a slight variation of something they’ve practiced over & over.

Predictability must be avoided, and perfection is not a necessary or important ingredient. But there’s a big difference between free & open improvisation, and random chaos.

I would be bored by the improvisor who doesn’t make his best effort to bring subtlety, emotion, and refinement into the improvisation. It’s that challenge…..using your craft to communicate in the most direct way what feelings are in your mind….this is why I love to improvise! And it is why I prepare my technique so that I can make the best of those spontaneous moments.

Bob, thank you for a most inspiring and heartfelt article.  Without a doubt, the wisdom behind the words will enlighten all those who read it.  Again, I am sincerely grateful and wish you well in all your endeavours.  Until our paths cross again, be blessed!


We hope you’ve enjoyed this article.   Make sure you visit the links below to find out more about this amazing musician.  Your comments are sincerely appreciated, thank you and enjoy!

Let’s touch the sky!  Released in 2010!

www.bobjames.comBoB James Let's touch the sky!

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Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, January 14th, 2011


By jerome taylor on January 15th, 2011 at 10:53 am

Thanks for the article, it was full of inspirational thoughts as well as insights into a most creative and accomplished musician. I appreciate this. Thanks again.


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My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours