This album is the second of a series of jazz-funk classics (along with One, Three and BJ4). Released in 1975, this album charted at number two on the Jazz Album Charts. The track "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" is one of the most widely used tracks in hip-hop breakbeat samples.
Keyboardist Bob James and acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh struck gold with this session, recently reissued on CD. The formula hasn't changed much in succeeding years. Both Klugh and James are capable musicians; they demonstrated on this collection of light, innocuous melodies and occasionally interesting backbeats a high degree of professionalism. Klugh is a first-rate guitarist whose solos are concise and nicely delivered, but frequently sound thin. James' piano and electric keyboard playing is a puzzling combination of flawlessness and lifelessness.(Ron Wynn - AllMusic Guide)
Bob James H was released in 1980 on his Tappan Zee imprint during his great run that began with Touchdown in 1978. Its immediate predecessor is the One on One duet album with Earl Klugh. James recorded it in the same way he'd been making records since joining CTI in the early 1970s: with a large, all-star studio group paired with a couple of top-flight soloists. The former group included trumpeter Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, and Eddie Daniels; the latter features Grover Washington, Jr., Hiram Bullock, Airto Moreira, and Buddy Williams. Of course, hovering over everything is James' trademark piano, full of lovely if rote grooves and fills. The music revolves around breezy, easy themes and colorations, where the new contemporary (later, "smooth") jazz met lithe cinematic-style orchestral themes with some neat and tidy funk overtones. "Brighton by the Sea," with a tough soprano solo by Washington is a great example. Airto's hand percussion plays counterpoint to Williams drums, Gary King's deep, fretless, funk bassline holds the groove and Grover moves right into it, and then soars above it.
This CD holds a very special place in the heart of every true Bob James fan. This may be due in no small part to its sentimental value in relation to nostalgia. HEADS has an overtly sexual quality to it, as may be seen through it's titles (and the number five itself). Musically, it has much to offer. The title song features the interesting sound of the Oberheim polyphonic synth's "tinkle bells". The tour-de-force of the CD is his uptempo version of "We're All Alone", featuring pianist Richard Tee. Bob rides the disco wave in on his version of Peter Frampton's "I'm In You". Both this and the original version of "Nightcrawler" feature saxophonist David Sanborn. Grover Washington, Jr. adds his special touch on "You Are So Beautiful". HEADS closes with an adaptation of Baroque composer Henry Purcell's "One Loving Night", something which can only be skillfully done by arrangers such as Bob James and Don Sebesky. With HEADS, you win!
Bob James' most enduring recording is perhaps one of his least adventurous. Full of simple laid-back melodies, light, airy grooves, and quiet backdrops, it's a smooth jazz "masterpiece." It's an enduring part of his catalog and was the launch pad for many movie and television projects, and for a string of hit recordings for the Warner label in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. In effect, it insured his financial security for the future. The set is notable for its heavyweight cast including David Sanborn, Ron Carter, Idris Muhammad, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Hubert Laws, and Earl Klugh. It also netted the monster hit "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," which continued to get airplay on smooth jazz stations into the 21st century. James is a highly developed pianist, arranger, and composer, and while the music here is as safe as milk, it nonetheless spoke to millions.
BJ 4 starts off promising with a flugelhorn solo from the great Art Farmer, but the music soon sinks into pure commercialism. Bob James' keyboards are always prominent, as are the rather mechanical rhythms churned out by bassist Gary King, drummer Steve Gadd, and percussionist Ralph MacDonald. Although there are some catchy moments, the six selections (which all clock in between almost five and almost seven minutes) never seem to travel anywhere. Farmer, flutist Hubert Laws and guitarist Eric Gale have short solos that are primarily used as props and for contrast before James takes back complete control. The occasional strings and woodwinds make the light funk music here seem a bit Muzaky, so this is one to skip.
By Three, Bob James – the pianist, composer, and arranger – was deep into jazz-funk. The five tracks here reflect his obsession with hard, danceable grooves that take as much from the soul-jazz book as they do his years with CTI. Using many of the same session players he bonded with at his former label – including Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken, Hubert Laws, Will Lee, and Harvey Mason – and a large host of stellar horn players (among them Lew Soloff and Jon Faddis), James offers five selections of simple but fun jazz-pop.
This keyboardist was putting the "smooth" into "jazz" long before there was a format by that name. Since the mid-70s, Bob James has been one of instrumental music's most consistent purveyors of tunes that hover in the gray area between lighthearted pop and more sophisticated jazz textures. James' approach here is a little like his contribution to the supergroup Fourplay rather than dominate, he's content to jam and be one of the guys. Though his solos stand out, it's almost as if he's a hired gun on a project featuring the best and brightest of this second generation of smooth jazzers. He's farmed out the production tasks to some top studio guys (including musician/artists Paul Brown, Chuck Loeb, Michael Colina, and David McMurray. On the lively, shuffling "Take Me There," he bounces around joyously over Loeb's crisp guitar lines and Kim Waters' smart mix of soprano and alto saxes.
Keyboardist Bob James and acoustic guitarist Earl Klugh struck gold with this session, recently reissued on CD. The formula hasn't changed much in succeeding years. Both Klugh and James are capable musicians; they demonstrated on this collection of light, innocuous melodies and occasionally interesting backbeats a high degree of professionalism. Klugh is a first-rate guitarist whose solos are concise and nicely delivered, but frequently sound thin. James' piano and electric keyboard playing is a puzzling combination of flawlessness and lifelessness.
12 is of historic value because it introduced saxophonist Kirk Whalum, who was still a year away from debuting as a leader with 1985's Floppy Disk. One of the more noteworthy albums that Bob James came out with in the '80s, 12 finds him featuring the up-and-coming Whalum on three selections: the funky "No Pay, No Play," the pensive "Midnight" and Whalum's own "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby" (a slightly Spyro Gyra-ish number). While those selections are enjoyable, the strongest tune on the CD is James' haunting, Chick Corea-influenced "Legacy."