James Robinson

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There's a Jimmy Robinson or James Robinson for every instrument in the band box. This California native, who has gone by both of those first names, is the one to call for blues, funk, or jazz drumming.…
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There's a Jimmy Robinson or James Robinson for every instrument in the band box. This California native, who has gone by both of those first names, is the one to call for blues, funk, or jazz drumming. It would be hard to find a better form of rhythmic training than he underwent as a teenager playing in an edition of the James Brown band in the early '80s that sported not one but three drummers. Robinson, who was known as Little Jimmy and admittedly had limited abilities when he first joined the group, sat on-stage alongside veterans Melvin Parker and Obie Williams, eventually mastering the wicked backbeats and sophisticated syncopation that earned Brown the nickname as the "Godfather of Soul." From here, Robinson's discography leads to the more basic blues and rhythm & blues stylings of guitar great B.B. King. In the late '80s, this King of the blues was fronting a large group, complete with a loud and swaggering horn section, so for a drummer the assignment had overtones of big-band drumming. Robinson also toured and recorded with the intense electric guitarist Luther Allison. It is not hard to hear some of the Brown lessons in the drums on Alison's excellent Soul Fixin' Man album.

By the mid-'90s he had returned to California, where he became part of the Bay Area music scene. A frequent partner of percussionist Raul Ramirez, Robinson works in a variety of mainstream jazz settings which haven't seemed to lure a great deal of interest from recording companies. As tasteful as he is swinging, the drummer is a first choice accompanist for Bay Area singers such as Jessica Williams, Denise Perrier, and Joyce Diamond. His savvy backbeat has also been utilized in gospel recording projects.