Simon James (musician)

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Simon James (born 13 March 1954) is an English acoustic guitarist and an original member of Acoustic Alchemy. After leaving the band, he later went on to form Kymaera, a Latin-style contemporary jazz band.

Early years and education[edit]

Born in York, England, James was educated at Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire Leeds College of Music studying flute and guitar (Gordon Crosskey), and Trinity College of Music, London, where he studied guitar and composition with Hector Quine and David Newbold respectively. After obtaining his LTCL he joined the teaching staff at Trinity in 1977 and became guitar tutor at the Purcell School of Music in 1984. In 1981 he attended the first Master Class in Flamenco to be given by Paco Peña in Cordoba, and this traditional art from Spain became a very strong influence in his music clearly present in the early Alchemy recordings.


In 1979 James became a founding member of the band Acoustic Alchemy,[1] leaving the band to pursue other interests in 1985.[2] He has toured solo, with Acoustic Alchemy, with Nick Webb and with Maria Ewing and has performed on live broadcasts for radio and television.

In 1984–1985 James and Webb began a collaboration with the actress Sylvia Syms on a series of shows combining poetry and music ("The Female Principle", "If This Be Love", "Mothers And Daughters", "Love Lust And We All Make Mistakes").[3] This involved both writing and arranging music for the shows as well as appearing in them.

In 1987 James formed his own publishing company, Designer Music Ltd., to develop the compositional side of his work. Commissions have included a fifteen part history of bullfighting released in Spain by Planeta/Agostini in Autumn 1994, a thirteen part series on Serial Killers produced by Mainline Television in Autumn 1996 for SKY TV, and a series of commissioned arrangements which led to the creation of the band Kymaera in 1998.

Kymaera had two albums released in Spring 1998, the first album 'Rio Moods' (MCI) was a tribute to the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim but also contained original tracks, the second on the Prestige Jazz label consisted entirely of the music of George Michael, both albums were produced and arranged by him in collaboration with his present musical partner guitarist Shane Hill. Kymaera made its debut at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club on 21 June 1998 and successfully launched both albums before going on to make a third album 'Careless Whispers' (MCI) released in September 1998.

The next Kymaera album ‘Into The Rainbow’ was a tribute to his former partner Webb who had died in February 1998[4] and which featured Ewing and Greg Carmichael from the present Acoustic Alchemy. ‘Into The Rainbow’ was released in June 2001 and launched at Ronnie Scotts with Ewing, with whom he and Hill toured the UK that same year. In July and August 2001 Kymaera made an album for Union Square entitled ‘California Dreamin’ which was released the following year.

In Summer 2004 Kymaera recorded another album for Union Square some tracks of which were released in Spring 2006 on ‘Smooth Jazz’ including two with vocals from guest singer Lynieve Austin - Streetlife and Rainy Night In Georgia. The original ‘Into The Rainbow’ has now been combined with unreleased tracks for Union Square, was re-mastered, and released in January 2007 by Sheridan Square Records in the USA.

James specialises in a fusion of Spanish classical and flamenco for solo guitar which is both unique and yet firmly centred in those traditional values, this led to the creation of the band Almaraya in 2006; based around the rhythm section of Kymaera and with the addition of Lynieve Austin on vocals the band launched the Croydon Jazz Festival in April of that year.


  1. ^ "What a week!". The Gainesville Sun. 8 October 1992. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "Jazz world's daring eclectics". New Straits Times. 3 June 1994. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "On the edge". Crewe Chronicle. 29 July 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2010. 
  4. ^ "Nick Webb". The Modesto Bee. 20 February 1988. Retrieved 8 February 2010. [dead link]

External links[edit]