James Hurt, born on May 8, 1967 in Memphis, Tennessee in the historic Orange Mound Community, credits his mom for his early exposure to blues, jazz, and soul music. James became dedicated to the drums by age twelve. At age fifteen, James auditioned as a percussionist and was accepted into Watkins Overton High School of the Creative and Performing Arts. At age sixteen James did his first session as a recording engineer. Musically, James is genre bender who approaches music as a journey in sound.
Though James studied percussion while attending TSU, his harmony, counterpoint, form and analysis and applied piano instructor Dr. Donald Barrett, Oberlin Conservatory Alumnus, attempted to switch his focus to piano. Barrett exposed him to the classical piano literature of Bartok, Prokofiev, Ginastera, Liszt, Chopin, Gershwin, Legeti, and Rachmaninoff. James graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Master of Science Degree in Computer-Based Music Education yet was determined to pursue creative music further.
James moved to New York City by train in 1994 and gained a lot of press in a short amount of time by conducting, composing, and performing as a pianist in several bands nightly with his unique sound and spontaneity. Rashid Ali, Antonio Hart, Russell Gunn, Gregory Tardy, and Abraham Burton enlisted James simultaneously. James served as guest conductor and arranged for both the Tess Marsalis Swing Daddies at the Iridium and the Jason Lidner Big Band at Smalls. As a pianist James played in the Oliver Lake Big Band at the Knitting Factory in New York City, and on electronics, laptop, and keyboards in Butch Morris’s Nublu and Lucky Cheng Orchestras. Since 2008 James has performed with Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures Ensemble and Go Organic Orchestra as a percussionist.