Jazz drummer Billy James passed away suddenly on Friday, November 20, 2009, from what is believed to be complications from asthma, according to Danita Garrison-Lyburn, his long-time girlfriend. He was 73 years old.
Jazz fans know the distinctive style of James and his legendary work with organist Don Patterson and saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Booker Ervin. According to David A. Orthmann of All About Jazz, "The cornerstone of James' style is a singular sound on the ride cymbal, which always points the way and provides continuity regardless of the kind of ensemble he's playing in...At slow to medium tempos, the cymbal's timbre has weight and seems to expand; at faster tempos it's springy and nimble. He has a knack for wiping the slate clean at the beginning of everyone's solo by striking it in such a way that the music sounds reinvigorated.... No matter how busy James gets, he always stays in touch with and acknowledges the others."
Sonny Stitt, "Live" At The Left Bank (Label M, 1971) Sonny Stitt/Don Patterson, Legends Of Acid Jazz, Vol. 2 (Prestige, 1968) Don Patterson, Boppin' & Burnin' (Prestige, 1968)