composer. singer. guitarist.
David James is a San Francisco-born composer, guitarist, vocalist and bandleader who draws from his years of experience in hip-hop, film and theater scores, afrobeat, and more, bringing these influences to bear in his “ … thoughtfully composed, boundary-blurring new music.” (All About Jazz)
James’s compositions often join a sing-song-y melodicism to his explorations of rhythms and textures from across the African diaspora and beyond. This can be heard in the political instrumentals and songs of the rhythm-horns-and-strings sextet GPS, which features clarinet, trombone, viola, electric guitar, acoustic bass, and drums. From 2010 to 2020, David co-led Afrofunk Experience (all manner of afro-grooves); and currently co-leads Russian Telegraph (an anything-goes collective of players from the funk, jazz, rock, and new music worlds).
While beginning to develop his own compositional voice, David was a recording and touring member of Spearhead, The Coup, and the Beth Custer Ensemble. He has performed chamber jazz at the community-level salon Red Poppy Art House (SF); live scores to silent films in the screening rooms of MoMA and SFMOMA; and hip-hop at the Glastonbury Festival (UK)
David James has been awarded grants from:
InterMusic SF (as San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music) in 2015, to record the GPS album Billionaire Blues in 2015;
San Francisco Arts Commission in 2020 and 2022, to write, develop, and premiere a suite of music about Rev. Jesse James and the Mission Rebels.
Praise for Billionaire Blues:
“… an array of styles…lithe reggae, sinewy bop, playfully cartoonish bounce, and elegant Afrobeat … a striking achievement “ (NPR’s California Report)
“ … (a) great new record … a tasty blend of Ellington-flavored horn parts, sweet-and-sour riffs, and prime improvised solos.” (San Francisco Chronicle)