James is a Principal Lecturer and is the Study Lead for Music (which includes BMus and BA Music, Commercial Music, Creative Music Technology, Music Production and the MMus programmes). James teaches modules relating to live and studio performance, improvisation and jazz, as well as supervising students taking the Independent Study module. He also teaches electric guitar and has run a number of the staff-run groups such as Funk Ensemble, Prog-Rock and Fusion. In addition, he coordinates the weekly schedule of Commercial Music gigs.
James performs regularly with a wide range of groups and artists. Some recent examples include recording for Arcelia, Conehead Records, Expansion Records and with pop artist Dane Bowers - with music producer Greg Fitzgerald (who has co-written with and recorded artists such Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Jessica Simpson). James has performed at the Indigo2 at the O2 arena supporting the band Chic and has performed with some of the UK’s top session musicians including Claire McInerney (Bon Jovi, Westlife, Kylie Minogue, Michael Buble), Simon Willescroft (Duran Duran, Jamie Cullum, Katie Melhua), Pete Cater (Tom Jones, Jamie Cullum), Clive Dunstall (Sting), Paul Booth (Steve Winwood, Santana, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton), Noel McCalla (Manfred Mann) and Gary Barnacle (Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Phil Collins).
Previously James has been active as a guitar arranger/transcriber. A selection of these are listed below:
Jeff Buckley - Grace and other songs
U2 – All that you can't leave behind
Nick Drake - Way to blue: an Introduction to Nick Drake
Oasis - Standing on the shoulders of giants
The Stereophonics – Performance and cocktails
Iron Maiden – Brave New World
Research and knowledge exchange
James' research interests are primarily in improvisation technique and approaches, particularly in relation to the guitar and its use in jazz and fusion styles. Recent research has concentrated on the style of guitarist Pat Metheny focusing on the relationship between muscle memory and improvisation. This research resulted in an article recently published in Jazz Perspectives (Routledge), listed in Taylor and Francis online 'most read 2015':
Additionally, this research formed the basis of a lecture given at the University of Southern California (Thornton School of Music) in 2010.
As a composer/performer James composes jazz-based music as a means of exploring improvisation, as well as composition and recording processes. James' recent album Here and Now, released on Pathway Records (www.pathwayrecordings.com) also features Paul Booth (saxophones), Steve Hamilton (piano), Dave Whitford (double bass) and Andrew Bain (drums). Here and Now was recommended on itunes in October 2016 (https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/mpa/2389-2/)
Other related compositions include two extended pieces (approx. 40mins each) entitled Spaces for drums, percussion, double bass, acoustic and electric guitar, piano, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone and electronics) written and performed as part of a Research Informed Teaching project, and Heading East for drums, percussion, fretless electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, midi guitar and piano. Both pieces were performed in the ‘Sounds New’ contemporary music festival in Canterbury (2009 and 2010), and Spaces was also performed in ‘The Canterbury Festival’ (2009). Central to this practice based research is the development of performance and recording technique, and Spaces was released on C3U records in December 2009 whilst a studio recording of Heading East was completed in July 2012.
James has a forthcoming chapter in the Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education exploring attitudes and approaches to conventional notation in Popular Music based degrees (Spring 2019).
Teaching and subject expertise
James is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Sept 2013 – July 2017: External Examiner for BA in Popular Music Performance, University of Chester
July 2012 – July 2017: External Examiner for FdA Commercial Music Performance and Production, Truro and Penwith College, validated by Plymouth University
May 2012: External Adviser for BMus (Hons), ICMP (Institute of Contemporary Music Performance), validated by University of East London
Nov 2011 – Nov 2015: External Examiner for FdA Popular Musician, British Academy of New Music, validated by Westminster University
Feb 2011: External Assessor for FdA Creative Musicianship (Songwriting) validation event at ICMP (Institute of Contemporary Music Performance), validated by Middlesex University.
Nov 2010: ‘Pat Metheny’s Finger Routes’, Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. Invited lecture.
Publications and research outputs
The Vanishing Stave?: examining the value of traditional notation reading skills in popular music performance degrees, The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education (Spring 2017)
JOURNAL PUBLICATIONS (2014)
‘Pat Metheny’s Finger Routes: the role of muscle memory in guitar improvisation’, published in Jazz Perspectives (Routledge), Volume 8, Issue 1
SELECTED COMPOSITIONS, PERFORMANCES & RECORDINGS
2016 – 2017
July 2016: As performer/composer: with Richard Smith (University of Southern California), Hideaway, London.
March 2016: As performer/composer: Performance of ‘Here and Now’ during Pathways Records Festival
Jan 2016 As performer: Album release: Sam Hughes – Soft Out of Seventeen
October 2015: As composer, performer, producer: Album release 'Here and Now', released on Pathway Records. www.pathwayrecordings.com
October 2015: as guest performer with 'The Chap'.
October 2015: As performer/composer: Performance and album release of ‘Here and Now’. The Canterbury Festival 2015, featuring Paul Booth (saxophones), Steve Hamilton (piano), Dave Whitford (bass), Andrew Bain (drums)
Ocotber 2015: As performer/director: Commercial Music 'Unplugged'. St Gregory's Centre for Music, The Canterbury Festival.
March 2015 As performer/composer: album preview of ‘Here and Now’: The Harbour Jazz Club, Ramsgate
2014 – 2015
June 2014 As performer: Album Release: Arcelia - Wrap Your Bones. Guitars on 5 tracks (www.arcelia.co.uk);
Oct 2014 As director and performer: Canterbury Festival performance – Commercial Music ‘Unplugged’ with Simon Foster, Izzy Chase, Lawrie Bolton, Richard Rozze and Jason McClusky.
2013 – 2014
Jan 2013: as performer: The Music of Tower of Power, The Spice of Life, London.
May 2013: as director: Commercial Music end of year show, The Quarterhouse Theatre, Folkestone.
2012 – 2013
July 2012: Release of original composition and recording, Heading East
Aug 2012: as performer: studio session with Arcelia