Upon moving to New York City in 1994 James immersed himself in the underground jazz music scene playing in several bands at Smalls in the West Village. Paul Carlon talks about the experience of playing with James and his unorthodox stylings in an interview. James was a member of Sherman Irby Quartet and was signed to Blue Note Records as a Group which included Eric Revis and Dana Murray. Gregory Tardy also tapped James' talents for his own Quartet later penning a song after him entitled "Mr. Hurt". He and fellow musician Tardy would play in one of Rashied Ali's last bands.
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