James attended San Francisco State University, and received his B.A. in Creative Arts (Music Emphasis) in 1975. While an undergrad he composed film scores and original music for his jazz group, along with extensive free-lance work around the bay area. He had th eopportunity to work with such artists as John Handy, Mark Isham, Art Lande, Mel Martin, Glen Cronkhite and Mike Clark. In 1979 Jim received a National Endowment for the Arts "Travel Study" grant, and spend the summer in New York City studying with Jack Wilkins
Next Jack teamed up with jazz-pop singer-songwriter Joyce Yarrow, and began a number of new projects with Joyce and her band. In 982 Jim formed and co-led Hyperion--an acoustic jazz group working clubs in and around sothern California. In April of 1989 Jim recorded his first solo outing as a leader entitled Up Until Now featuring bassist John Pattitucci and drummer Ralph Penlan.
In 1990 Jim began teaching jazz improvisation, small group combos and individual guitar students at the Community School of Music and Art in Mountain View.
In 1993 the Joplin & Sweeney Music Company released Give and Take--Jim's first compact disc recording.