Born: January 1, 1980 Primary Instrument: Various
Born in Columbia, Maryland, James Shipp moved to New York to study music, and has resided there ever since. James’ career is full of musics that inhabit multiple worlds. His earliest work of note as a sideman was with Tito Puente veteran trumpeter Ray Vega, with whom he played vibes in Caribbean jazz quartets and quintets from 2002-2005. In 2006 he recorded with Vega and operatic soprano Sharon Spinetti, playing music by Debussy, Lara, and Villa- Lobos arranged by James for jazz quartet.
In 2005 James began his musical relationship with Jo Lawry, the vocalist in Sting's touring group, Fred Hersch's 'Pocket Orchestra,' and James' own Nós Novo. Her critically acclaimed 2008 release (named one of Downbeat Magazine's 'Best CDs of the 2000s') featured a number of his arrangements and compositions, along with his vibes, marimba, and percussion playing. 2008 also saw the release of Kate McGarry’s “If Less is More, Nothing is Everything” on Palmetto Records, which received a Grammy nomination for best album by a jazz vocalist. James lent his talents as both a percussionist and arranger to this album.
In addition to his work with vocalists, James has appeared on several instrumental albums in varying styles. Recent highlights include playing percussion on organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s latest Palmetto Release, “Rise Up!,” playing cajon on Australian/New York trumpeter Nadje Noordhius's forthcoming album, and contributing both arrangements and pandeiro playing to afro- Cuban/Brazilian percussionist Steve Kroon’s latest release, “El Mas Alla.”
Outside of the studio, James has enjoyed recent performances under the direction of up-and-coming Trinidiadian jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles, New York Voices vocalist Peter Eldridge, and tabla master Ustad Zakir Hussain, with whom he performed at Carnegie Hall in April 2009.
James is the leader of an innovative quartet called Nós Novo, a band that approaches traditional Celtic musics with Afro-Brazilian grooves and the spirit of collective jazz improvisation. For more on that project, check out James' interview with AAJ contributor Jason Crane on his podcast, The Jazz Session. (www.thejazzsession.com.)
--Time Out New York
“…a striking new album, ‘Strange Sweethearts in America,’ which advances a jazz-based take on traditional Celtic music,”
--Nate Chinen, the New York Times
“Strange Sweethearts in America is a refreshing blend of Irish, Brazilian music and jazz that really works wonderfully. The arrangements are unique, the playing and singing are superb, and the disc is filled with unbridled joy. A real treat all around.”
--pianist/composer Fred Hersch