Bob James: Taxi

You know the theme music from the 1970s television series, Taxi. Jazz composer Bob James wrote the theme (“Angela”) and a few other tracks that appeared on the series, he released those along with some other tracks on an album called The Genie: Themes & Variations from the TV Series Taxi (1983).

James has released many solo albums before and after Taxi, and was a member of a jazz quartet called Fourplay. Smooth jazz is the term applied to James’ brand of instrumental music. The original lineup of Fourplay: James (keyboards), Nathan East (bass), Harvey Mason, Sr. (drums) and Lee Ritenour (guitar). Larry Carlton later replaced Ritenour. Fourplay have released 13 studio albums, a live recording and several compilation sets since 1991.

The Genie is by far my favorite Bob James work. It is soulful, moody and a mixture of rhythms bordering on funky. I found nuggets of cool jazz in his other solo work and Fourplay, just not the originality and interlocking musical themes.

James is a true wonderkind, one of the most successful writers/arrangers/producers on the New York jazz music scene. This cool jazz vibe, which can be nicknamed yacht-jazz for the breezy, laidback, pop sound that began in the late 1970s and grew into a huge musical genre in the 1980s, when the New Age musical genre also peaked.

In the 1980s, he won Grammy Awards for his collaborations with David Sanborn and Earl Klugh. He has been nominated for various other projects.

A few interesting notes about James. He was discovered by Quincy Jones back in 1963 at a jazz festival and signed to Mercury Records, where his first album was produced by Jones.

James played piano on Roberta Flack’s 1974 number one hit, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”. He released his own version of the song.

Interestingly, James is a favorite of DJs and hip-hop producers who have been sampling his music for years. Bits of his songs have been in recordings by LL Cool J, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Warren G and many others.

I have been playing this album for nearly 40 years. While the production might sound a bit 80s, the creativity is timeless.


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