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.”