American jazz trumpeter born in Albany, Georgia, on March 15, 1916 and died in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 5, 1983.
Son of a director of circus, his father taught him little to play the drums and trumpet, and nine years of age regularly played in the band of his father. This taught him, how it could be otherwise, to give more show that what made him really feel the music, a floundering trumpeter, more concerned about achieving the rapid phrasing of virtuoso than in modular and give expression to the phrase. He won a contest for young performers in his teens and began his professional career in the Old Phillips Friar's group and in the orchestras of Logan Hancock and Herman Waldmann, which made various tours.
At the age of twenty he moved to New York, engaged in the Orchestra by Ben Pollak. By then, the sound of James vaguely reminiscent of Louis Armstrong and, although he had an enviable technique - pure tones, good volume and accuracy in the attack of the notes, quick mind and knowledge of the basic language of jazz and its structures, was excessively arrogant, despising all that instrumentalist whose speed was not comparable. Little by little he began to look at colleagues such as Buck Clayton who, although they played with worse technical knew supplementing it with greater expressiveness in the notes and a richer depth of feeling from the musical point of view. By then, he was required in various recordings of Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson, among others.
He acquired a remarkable reputation when Benny Goodman kept him in his Orchestra during the 1937 and 1939 as main soloist - with the exception of the own Goodman. When he left this Orchestra assembled his own, with a very commercial repertoire in which their skills with the instrument were the most outstanding element. The successes harvested with songs such as You Made Me Love, Concerto for Trumpet, Trumpet Rhapsody and popular melodies as the rapid flight of the Bumblebee and the Carnival of Venice made James all a big winner, who could hire the services of the mismismimo Frank Sinatra for his records, which sold for millions. It contracted by then marriage with Betty Grable film star.
James did not never abandon his particular way of understanding the show, sometimes penetrating into land more jazz, but refused to deliberately evolve toward bebop and successive experiences. In the Decade of the 1950s was carried in part by the Dixieland revival, but he returned as a concession to the tastes of the public to own conviction, much more identified with the warm and friendly Swing of the 1940s. Nevertheless, its popularity not decreased one iota, and by successive orchestras of James, all of them of great quality, paraded outstanding musicians, such as Neal Hefti, Thad Jones, Buddy Rich, Juan Tizol, and Willie Smith.