Claire studied classical piano at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she won the John Ireland prize and the Principal's Prize for Improvisation in 2011. Having played regularly with the RNCM Big Band in performances featuring Tina May, John Taylor, Gwilym Simcock and Diana Torto, the ‘Claire James Trio’ was her first project as a bandleader and composer, and their EP ‘Lines’ was released on the Manchester-based Efpi label in 2011. In the same year, the group performed at the Manchester Jazz Festival, the London Jazz Festival and during the BBC Proms Plus Series which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. More recently, Claire performed in Andy Scott’s ‘Mancunity’ band, a commission for the 2019 Manchester Jazz Festival, and also composed the original piano score for Rob Cope’s acclaimed 2019 film about jazz trumpeter Richard Turner, ‘Richard Turner – A Life in Music’. In July 2020, Claire released her debut album as bandleader of the septet Ensemble C, where she is joined by acclaimed UK jazz musicians Brigitte Beraha, Jack Davies, Jon Ormston, Tom Varrall, Ed Babar and Rob Cope.
Claire is also a passionate educator, and since graduating from music college has garnered a wide range of experience as a piano teacher. Currently, she works as a piano tutor for Donhead Preparatory School in Wimbledon and at Wycombe Abbey Girls School in High Wycombe