Bob James was born on Christmas Day. There is something sweetly celebratory about that, something that hints at notions of a gift. That would be one beautiful point. In close second is the fact that his first professional music job was at eight years old. His first crossover appeal, maybe? He played for a tap dance class. The third exciting point came in 1962, when he was in a band in his college days and they entered the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival. The judges were a cast of superstars, including Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones. The band won, and in a providential followup move, Quincy Jones signed James to an album deal with Mercury Records.
Often labelled as an artist who plays “pop-jazz,” James is much more — he transcends the moniker. He helped to make fusion jazz of the ’70s more commercial. “Angela,” the theme for the TV sitcom Taxi, is probably James’ best-known composition. His music has been sampled by hip-hop artists Run-DMC and A Tribe Called Quest, among others. The music bridges, and in its way, it is comfortably and easily accessible for all ears, allowing a place for fans of different genres. Bob James is his own kind of cool, and just like the drive across the Queensboro Bridge in the opening of Taxi, the ride is just so very right.