Chris Mann interviews Bob James

CM – Bob let me start my saying that I’m a huge fan of your music ‘One on One’ got me hooked on your music in the late ‘70’s.

BJ – Well, thank you for listening for all that time

CM – And ‘Restless’ is one of the things I’d grab if my house were on fire. I bought it as soon as it came out and I’ve played it fairly relentlessly ever since.

I wanted to start out by asking you who your early influences were when you started playing.

BJ – I have always referred to three different people who I think it’s fair to call my biggest influences: Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans and Count Basie, all for different reasons.

I think probably Oscar Peterson was the one I discovered first back in high school and I use to listen relentlessly to his records and try to learn from them and one of things I discovered pretty quickly was that I’d never be able to have that kind of technique so that it didn’t really make too much sense to me to try to copy him because I knew I’d never be able to do it. And yet I learned a tremendous amount from his very powerful swing feeling.

Somewhat later on, I really became immersed in Bill Evans like probably almost every jazz pianist did. His voicings – even Oscar Peterson was influenced by Bill Evans in that way. So I learned even more and it was easy to fall into the pattern of trying to play like Bill Evans and maybe the only thing that saved me from that was when I discovered the Fender Rhodes maybe in the late 60’s/early 70’s and developed my own sound, it changed my touch and changed my approach to the piano. So that I could still admire and listen and love Bill Evans’ music but not feel like he was influencing me too much.

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