composer and multi-instrumentalist whose main instrument is the tuba, but
also plays bass and trombone, as well as a fluba,
which is a cross between a flugelhorn and a tuba that he helped
invent. He also plays a Selfone, which is a Sousaphone in the key of F.
He started out
on the tuba at the age of thirteen in his hometown of Oil City,
Pennsylvania, where he played in the junior high school band. After graduating, he attended
Catholic University, Indiana University, and USC Thornton School of Music,
where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, and even did a stint in
the Army, playing for the Army Band in Washington, D.C.
He went on to
have an incredibly prolific career as a session musician, and is reputed to
have played on over 1,300 movie soundtracks.
In 1976, he
played Sousaphone and tuba on Tom Pacheco’s Swallowed Up in the Great American Heartland, and helped
establish TubaChristmas, an annual Christmas
concert in L.A. that is still held to this day. He has also conducted Merry Tuba
Christmas, which is a similar concert that takes place throughout the U.S.
In the 1970s,
he was a member of Don Ellis’s big band, and appears on Music from Other Galaxies and Planets
as well as Live at Montreux.
His most famous movie moment was in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for which he provided the
voice of the mother ship in the classic musical dialogue between humans and
soundtracks on which he has performed include All the King’s Men, Bobby
Jones: Stroke of Genius, Chicago, Dick Tracy, E.T. the
Extra-Terrestrial, Finding Nemo, Grand
Canyon, Home Alone, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the
Crystal Skull, Jurassic Park,
King Kong (2005), Lemony Snicket’s
A Series of Unfortunate Events, Matrix
Revolutions, National Treasure,
Peter Pan (2003), Robots, Stripes, Terminator
3: Rise of the Machines, War of the Worlds, and X-Men: The Last Stand.
with Frank Sinatra on his 1979 boxed set, Trilogy, and opened the 1980s by collaborating with Leon
Redbone on his LP, From Branch to
Branch. He also recorded
with Patti LaBelle on You Are My Friend: The
Ballads and Love Songs.
In 1983, he
released his debut album, entitled Children
at Play, and the following year re-joined Frank Sinatra on L.A. is My Lady. A couple of years hence, he helped
premiere Thom Ritter George’s “Concertino for Tuba”, and
then closed out the decade by releasing his sophomore album, New Stuff, and playing mariachi on
Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de mi
In 1990, he
released Tricky Lix,
with Gary Foster and Warren Luening. In fact, the ‘90s were dotted
with Jim’s own recordings:
Changing Colors, which was
more of a classical effort, was released on Summit Records in 1992; Basset Hound Blues, a return to his
jazz roots, came out in 1997; Another classical project, The Big Stretch, was released on
Jim’s own Basset Hound label in 1999. He still found time to collaborate
with other artists, including David Byrne on 1991’s The Forest, Jim Morris on 1992’s
Montage, Diane Schuur on 1993’s Love Songs, Amy Grant on A
Christmas to Remember and Randy Newman on Bad Love, both released in 1999.
and groups with whom he has worked include Paul Anka,
Michael Buble, Pete Christlieb,
A.J. Croce, Neil Diamond, Michael Feinstein, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Gable,
the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Leah Kunkel, the Los Angeles Opera, the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, Bette Midler, Claus Ogerman,
the Pacific Symphony, the Pasadena Symphony, Allen Savedoff,
Keely Smith, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Cassandra Wilson, and Weird Al Yankovic.
occupied the principal tuba and/or cimbasso chair
with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Opera, Opera Pacific,
Pacific Symphony, and Pasadena Symphony. Other groups with whom he has been
active with and integral to include Los Tubas, Symphonia,
and The Tubadours.
In addition to
his massive discography, Jim has been the consummate ambassador for his
instrument, having written and/or arranged over thirty-five works for band,
euphonium, orchestra, strings, trombone, tuba and woodwinds. His original compositions include “Capriole”,
“Duh Suite”, “Euphoniums Unlimited”, “Foofaraw”, “For Christina”, “La
Mort dell’ Oom”, “Poker Chips”,
“Polka.com”, “Sonatina for Bass
Tuba and Piano”, “Sousa, Phone Home!”, “That
Morning in May”, “3 for 5” (or is that three 4 five?) and
“Tour de Force”, which was written for the Pacific Symphony and
dedicated to a pair of its patrons, John and Sandy Daniels.
He has also
been active as an arranger, transcribing “Ave Maria” for tuba
quartet and the Vivace from Johann Sebastian
Bach’s “Double Violin Concerto in D minor” for tuba
In the new
millennium, he has continued to release more of his own albums, including My America, InnerPlay, and the
harmonica-tuba album, The Odd Couple.
In 2008, he
received the International Tuba-Euphonium Association’s Lifetime
Achievement Award. (Jim is a
former president of the organization.)
teaches at the Mancini Institute, the Music Academy of the West, and USC,
and is active as a clinician, conducting music workshops throughout the
In order to
save time, he frequently zips to and from gigs in his own 1973 Piper