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Ethiopia Suite
Stafford James (arco bass
& compositions)
Buster Williams (pizz. bass)
M. Yajima; S. Shumway (violins)
J. Hansen (viola d'amore)
L. Rath (cello)
Victor Lewis (drums)
G. Franco (percussion)
Recorded in NYC (1986)

Ethiopia Suite 4712Kb 


Stafford James (arco bass
& compositions)
Buster Williams (pizz. bass)
R. Burrage (drums)
Miguel "Anga" Diaz (percussion)
Recorded in Amsterdam for NPS (1997)

Rejuvenation 8773Kb 

Round about Midnight-Musicians
Stafford James - Contrabass Soloist
Ari Brown - Saxophone
Sylvia de la Cerna - Violin
Lori Hashikawa - Violin
Susan LaPlante - Viola
Jocelyn Butler - Cello
Scott Hesse - Guitar
Christian Dillingham - Bass
Akira Tana - Drums

Round About Midnight 8773Kb 

This section is entitled "Gem Box" because it contains compositions that I feel are those that have truly helped me to solidify the concept of the contrabass as a lead melodic voice of an ensemble. They also show the functional characteristics of the instrument from the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic aspect of its role in an ensemble.

The fourth selection is entitled "Ethiopia Suite ". This was initially written for the famine victims of Ethiopia and was intended to have 10 dancers perform the music. It is my way to try to paint the picture from the perspective of the earth, which is why the Contrabass has the lead melodic function as well as the supportive function in the piece. This shows the "strata" of the Contrabass.

My last of the GEMS is entitled "Rejuvenation" and I think that it will speak for itself.

I feel very strongly that an artist has a responsibility to continually seek a better understanding of himself through what he does in his life. He cannot sit back to rest on laurels. He must continue to seek the higher part of himself, even when obstacles seem to make it an idealistic quest.

Above all else and despite the odds, there must be a vision and a will.

Round About Midnight

The Stafford James String Ensemble was actually started in France in 2005 with German orchestral players of the JUNO Quartet. We were able to tour in Germany, Austria and France. Memorable Concerts were in Gütersloh, Germany, Vienna, Austria and Paris, France to where we performed a corporate concert for the world's largest architectural engineering firm, GTM Construction. I gave a lecture in French to the CEO's of the firm on the History of Jazz 1889 to the Present that was then followed by a concert with the ensemble. In 2007 the group changed to where I utilized the Hollywood Film score Musicians including my longtime friend, Jennie Hansen along with Sara Parkins, Ralph Morrison and Wolf Sabastien. We had a tour with a most memorable concert in Zürich, Switzerland. After this juncture in 2008, I relocated to Chicago to focus on the next period of life to where I could perform with orchestral musicians of both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Upon arrival I was asked by then Vice-President of the WFMT Radio Network, Mr. Steve Robinson, to do a two-hour program on my Life and music entitled, "Composing for the Contrabass", which was heard twice worldwide. This in turn gave birth to the expansion of the concept to where I then formed an American string ensemble consisting of myself, as contrabass soloist, string quartet, guitar, support bass for the rhythm and drums. I also added the great Chicago saxophonist Ari Brown to round out the ensemble. I produced a recording of the group, "Round about Midnight".

The concept of the ensemble was then beginning to catch the ears of American listeners to where I expanded the group once again adding the percussion ensemble of the legendary drummer, Max Roach, M'BOOM with the aforementioned ensemble and we performed for the Chicago Jazz Festival in the wonderful Pritzker Pavilion before 12,000 wonderful listeners. I then decided that I would arrange and add the music of Woody Shaw to the repertoire.

In 2015 I was Artist-in-Residence at the University of Graz, Austria to where we rehearsed and performed my compositions in tandem with the music of Woody Shaw in a fifteen(15) piece strings, percussion and horns ensemble consisting of contrabass soloist, harp, string quartet, flute, saxes doubling on bass clarinet, trumpet doubling on flugelhorn, trombone, tuba, guitar, support bass, drums and percussion with memorable performances in Graz, Vienna and Chur, Switzerland. The press was very favorable to the ensemble, as the Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag gave a full page review of the ensemble. It was a first for an ensemble of this instrumentation.

Upon return to the United States I then embarked on reviving the ensemble in the United States with again members of the Chicago Sinfonietta. JANDO Music of Rome,Italy, Thomastik-Infeld of Vienna, Austria and Lyon and Healy Harps of Chicago were sponsors of an event held in Chicago. Mr. Richard Steele of WTTW, a PBS Network station, did an interview with me on my life and then presented the ensemble at a wonderful brand new theater, The EDGE Theater in the Edgewater district of the city of Chicago.
The ensemble(s) is now celebrating twelve years since inception. Onward and Upward.
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photo: Al Carter-Bey

photo: Marielle Shaw