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Tiny Desk Premiere: Bob James

Bob James' Tiny Desk concert is a manifestation of freedom and collaboration. "I have youth represented here," he says before introducing his band. "I don't have that myself, but I can hire it." The joke is tinged with a certain degree of truth. Still, curiosity and openness fuel his fresh spirit and keep his fanbase wide-ranging. The jazz pianist, composer and producer took his opportunity at the Desk to highlight his iconic discography, spanning over five decades.

Quincy Jones discovered Bob James in the 1960s and signed him to a record deal. He then arranged for other jazz greats like Sarah Vaughan and Grover Washington Jr. before releasing his album One in 1974. That album featured "Feel Like Making Love" and "Nautilus," one of the most sampled records in hip-hop. While James has released dozens of projects with his contemporaries, hip-hop has been the bridge to younger generations.

Before the new, improvised version of "Nautilus" with DJ Jazzy Jeff and Talib Kweli — seriously, they mapped it out and tried it once before we hit record — James played other highlights from his catalog, including "Westchester Lady," "Angela (Theme from Taxi)" and "The Secret Drawer" from his Grammy-nominated album, Jazz Hands.


  • "The Secret Drawer"
  • "Westchester Lady"
  • "Angela (Theme from Taxi)"
  • "Nautilus (feat. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Talib Kweli)"


  • Bob James: piano
  • James Adkins: drums
  • Michael Palazzolo: bass
  • Andrey Chmut: saxophone
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff: DJ
  • Talib Kweli: vocals


  • Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Technical Director: Neil Tevault
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Kara Frame, Maia Stern, Michael Zamora
  • Audio Engineer: Carleigh Strange
  • Photographer: Elizabeth Gillis
  • Tiny Desk Team:  Ashley Pointer, Hazel Cills
  • Executive Producer: Suraya Mohamed
  • Series Creators: Bob Boilen, Stephen Thompson
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins

Copyright 2024 NPR

Bobby Carter is a leader on the Tiny Desk Concerts team for NPR Music. He's brought an ever growing roster of big names and emerging artists through NPR's HQ to squeeze behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and record standout performances, including Usher, Mac Miller, Noname, Anderson.Paak and H.E.R.