Violinist Sanders leads Conjúnto, perhaps the most adventurous jazz latino band in the country. Moving confidently from Afro-roots to free improvisation, James Sanders and Conjúnto are equally at home at a salsa dance party or on stage at the Velvet Lounge, a south side Chicago club known for its fierce new music aesthetic.
Sanders attended a magnet school that drew students from all over the city. Being of a mixed Black/white/Latino background, he was not confined to any one social group or identity, so his friends at school were from all those cultures. His mother viewed the violin as a sophisticated instrument that carried a certain status, and James began lessons early, thoroughly absorbing the rigors of western classical music, eventually earning a scholarship to Yale University and a degree in violin performance. This led to soloist appearances with orchestras around the area and a violin chair in the Chicago Sinfonietta, a remarkably diverse symphony orchestra (over a third of its members are Black or Latino) that includes several noted jazz improvisers in its ranks, including flutist Nicole Mitchell and cellist Tomeka Reid.