Even before moving to New York City in 2013, pianist James Francies had generated a well deserved buzz in the jazz arena. He is the youngest recipient of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) President's Youth Award, DownBeat Magazine awarded him twice for Composition and Jazz Arrangement, his band opened for the legendary Jazz Crusaders reunion and he performed at Monterey Jazz Festival. GRAMMY nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti describes Francies as, "poised to become a major voice on the instrument. He has the passion, creativity and ability to be a real leader amongst his generation."
And he keeps moving forward. Since he’s been in NYC, James has toured internationally with Jeff “Tain” Watts, Chris Dave and Drumhedz, joined Stefon Harris’s band Sonic Creed, fronts his own band, Kinetic, has appeared with The Roots, Nas, Jadakiss, and Raekwon (Wu Tang Clan) during 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend, has recorded with Watts, Robert Glasper and has a soon to be released duo album with Eric Harland. Francies can often be seen from time to time on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC with the Roots. He is currently recording the Glasper produced soundtrack for a documentary on Nina Simone, featuring Mary J. Blige, Common and others. And he was just named one of "8 Artists You Should Know” by the genre-bending website Revive Music. Mr. Francies also works with drummer and producer ?uestlove of the Roots on numerous projects such as music for commercials, film scores, and singles for different artists.
Encouraged by his parents to learn by experience James reveled in the rich Houstonian culture exploring the arts and gaining early exposure to music in church and through formal lessons at age 5. While assimilating the contemporary music of his peers he also developed a distinct interest in jazz. Three years attending Houston’s Summer Jazz Workshop helped solidify his foundation and set a clear path as a standout at HSPVA, the renowned performing and visual arts high school whose alumnae include Beyoncé, Jason Moran, Chris Dave and Eric Harland. During that time he won the Ruth and Eli Nadel Scholarship Award at Stanford Jazz Workshop (2012-2013), earned a full scholarship to Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute in Saratoga Springs, NY and was awarded the Moran Scholarship Award from pianist and 2010 MacArthur Fellow, Jason Moran. It was also evident that James was a talented composer. Bolstered by his inquisitive mind and synesthesia, the ability to hear in colors, James’ music is insightful and purposeful with a distinct melodic styling that is forward looking and comforting. He explores the full spectrum of keys from acoustic piano to Fender Rhodes to synthesizer. "I enjoy being able to describe life through sound... To me, that's what makes music relevant; speaking on a subject with out words."
Francies’ impressive performance credits include Bobby Watson, Joe Lovano, Houston Person, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Arturo Sandoval, Antonio Hart, Julian Lage, Joel Frahm and Terrell Stafford among others. He has been a member of the GRAMMY® Jazz Session Combo, The Thelonious Monk Institute All-Star Jazz Sextet, The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, and the Texas Music Educators Association’s (TMEA) All-State Jazz Ensemble and performed at some of the premiere venues around the country including Monterey Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center and The Jazz Standard (NYC). Francies currently attends the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music on full-scholarship and will perform with his band Kinetic in Bern (SW) in Spring 2015. James Francies is a Yamaha Artist and Korg Artist.
Not bad for a 20 year old from Houston, Texas.