Self-taught French horn player who was born in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, and whose father played trumpet and piano. He attended and graduated from the Eastman School of Music, although it was jazz that captured his imagination, not classical, and he became one of the rarest of beasts, a gigging French hornist, clubbing in New York with Oscar Pettiford.
In 1954, he worked with Mel Powell, and in 1956, he teamed up with Teddy Charles. He also started getting session work in the recording studios, most famously with Miles Davis and Gil Evans on efforts such as 1959’s Sketches of Spain. In 1961, he recorded The Quintessence with Quincy Jones, another artist with whom he would collaborate again on the soundtrack of The Wiz.
Other ’70s albums he worked on were Stanley Clarke’s eponymous debut in 1974 and Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven, released America’s bicentennial year. In the late ’70s, he worked with the likes of Gato Barbieri, George Benson, and Freddie Hubbard. One of his last recordings was with Helen Merrill on a 1980 album.
Other artists with whom he worked during his short but illustrious life included James Brown, Jimmy Cleveland, Paul Desmond, J.J. Johnson, Michel Legrand, Wes Montgomery, Oliver Nelson, Eddie Sauter, Carly Simon, Jimmy Smith, and Grover Washington, Jr . He has left behind a musical legacy that includes John Coltrane’s Impulse! Albums, Vol. 1, Dizzy Gillespie’s Gillespiana/Carnegie Hall Concert, Freddie Hubbard’s First Light, Bob James’ Lucky Seven, Oscar Peterson’s Swinging Brass/Bursting Out, and the compilation album, Funk Jazz Brothers.
James passed away on 20th July 1981, in Englewood, New Jersey.
Frank Sinatra recordings
That’s What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan O’Kun)
Reprise RPS 49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)
Theme from “New York, New York (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)
He performs here…