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James Van Buren

Blues/jazz guitarist Phil Upchurch hit the nail on the head when he compared vocalist James Van Buren's interpretation skills to those of Joe Williams and Billie Holiday. Even better, Upchurch's "you can hear him smiling" captures the vocalist's warm sound, a sound that's had artists like Lou Rawls, T-Bone Walker, and Irene Reid seek out Van Buren for collaborations. Born in Arrow Rock, Missouri, Van Buren started sharing his love of blues and jazz with the public in 1956 when he formed the Blues Kings in Kansas City. He was amused when a European reporter called him an "archeological find" in the '90s, since he had been a hard touring, popping-up-here-and-there sideman (often as a drummer) since starting the Blues Kings. Colorado jazz and blues fans got to know him well when he made Denver his new home but everyone else didn't get to hear much of the man until 1985 when Van Buren formed his own label and released his debut, We Will Be Together Again. It's All Over followed and made NPR's Top 20 list, but it was 1989's I Ain't Doin' Too Bad and its "Three Handed Woman" (left-handed, right-handed, underhanded) that took the singer to the next level. Fans at the 1992 Utrecht Jazz Festival in Holland caused a commotion when they vigorously chanted for the song, and Van Buren has been successful on the European tour circuit ever since. From 1996 on, the Colorado Rockies baseball team have used Van Buren's "James' Baseball Song" as their anthem. In 2004 he released Live at the Kasbah with special guest Richie Cole. ~ David Jeffries, Rovi
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