In 1979, Bob James and Earl Klugh collaborated on their first album “One on One” which went on to sell over a million copies, win a Grammy and pioneer a new genre of music …what would later be called “Smooth Jazz”.
Today, thirty years later, they are commemorating this milestone and continuing to shape and re-shape Jazz, as we know it. Jazz Monthly.Com is pleased to be part of this special celebration with a “duo” feature for our August Cover Story…Bob James and Earl Klugh!
Collectively, Bob James and Earl Klugh have recorded over 70 albums! Individually, each has made their mark on the music industry. Songwriter, arranger, producer, keyboard artist Bob James began his musical journey at piano recitals in Marshall, Missouri and with his own trio at the University of Michigan. The turning point came during the 1963 Notre Dame Jazz festival when Quincy Jones discovered him. Bold Conceptions was the first of over 35 solo albums he would record with artists such as Grover Washington, Jr, Hank Crawford, Sarah Vaughn, Chuck Loeb, Keiko Matsui, Joe Sample and Dave Holland. Influenced by pop and movie music, Bob James is probably most recognized for “Angela”, the instrumental theme from the TV sitcom Taxi and Westchester Lady. In 1984 ASCAP named the “Theme from Taxi” as one of the top ten TV themes in history. He played a major role in the early 70’s in bringing jazz-fusion to the mainstream. With albums such as One, Two, Three and Touchdown, his Jazz-Fusion music began moving in new directions. In the 80’s, he continued to gather recognition for his work with a Grammy for “Best Jazz Fusion Performance Vocal or Instrumental” with Double Vision, his duet with saxophonist David Sandborn. In recent years, he has taken his passion for the Asian influence and created “The Angels of Shanghai” project where East meets West. Over the past four decades, Bob James has been recognized for his innovative contributions to Jazz. In 2007, he was honored with the 2006 George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards.
Composer, guitarist Earl Klugh, born in Detroit, Michigan, was captivated at the age of 13 by a television performance of Chet Atkins. He later had the opportunity to perform with Atkins on several of his albums and to have Atkins perform on his Magic in Your Eyes album. He cites Bob James, Pay Parker, Jr, Wes Montgomery and Laurindo Almeida as early influences, and while his music echoes their work, his sweet, mellow, cool and classy acoustic guitar sound is original to only him. Earl Klugh’s career progressed rapidly when he began playing with George Benson, George Shearing, Chick Corea and others. In his over three decades in the music business, Earl Klugh has received over a dozen Grammy nominations, and continues to be one of the most in-demand live artists to tour globally. For example, he toured India with Bob James under the sponsorship of the US State Department and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Each year since 2003, he hosts a Weekend of Jazz that brings together Jazz greats from all over the country to the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. In 2007, he introduced his Night of Guitars concert series bring Jazz guitar legends together such as Bill Frisell, Russell Malone, Ray Parker, Jr and Peter White. This year Earl received yet another Grammy nomination for his latest CD, the autobiographical “ Spice of Life”.