Jim grew up in the north-Bay Area town of San Rafael and began learning guitar at age twelve. He explored various styles (folk, pop, rock and blues) and began studying jazz guitar in high-school with well-known Bay Area teacher and performer Dave Smith.
After graduating high school Jim attended San Francisco State University, completing a Creative Arts Interdisciplinary (Music Emphasis) Bachelor of Arts degree. During college he focused on film scoring and composing for jazz combos. While attending SF State he was fortunate to study with Bay Area alto-saxophonist legend John Handy.
After graduation Jim free-lanced extensively around the Bay Area, working clubs and concerts as both a leader and sideman with such players as Mark Isham, Art Lande, Mike Clark, Delbert Bump, Michael Barsimanto, Glenn Cronkite, Mike Formanek, Chris Amberger and Todd Dickow. During this period he joined the “Life is Color” band along with vocalist Jesse Foster and vibist Jon Ericson. Jim hosted and performed on his weekly television series “Jazz After Midnight”, leading a quartet with featured guest performers. Soon afterward he received a National Endowment for the Arts Travel Study grant, studying with guitarists Jack Wilkins (New York) and Howard Roberts (Los Angeles)
Moving to Los Angeles Jim teamed up with singer-songwriter Joyce Yarrow, exploring the 'jazz-pop' side of the L.A. music scene. Jim also worked clubs and concerts with saxophonist Dave Lefebvre's six piece jazz-fusion group and played on Dave's “Marble Dust” album. He free-lanced with such notable players as Bob Sheppard, Scott Colley, Henry Butler, Richie Cole, Casey Schuerell and Clay Jenkins. Jim recorded a trio album (“Up Until Now”) with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Ralph Penland.
While teaching privately and studying with guitarists Joe DiOrio and John Abercrombie, Jim helped form and co-lead a quartet with pianist Phil Aaron, Eric VonEssen and Tony Jones. “Hyperion” played a mix of jazz standards and originals composed by band members, working clubs around the greater LA area.
Before moving back up to the Bay Area Jim recorded his first recording of all original music (“Give and Take”) featuring an all-star cast including Ernie Watts, Russ Ferrante, Marc Johnson, Ralph Penland and John Abercrombie. After relocating to the Bay Area he formed a new band performing the material from “Give and Take”. His group, featuring saxophonist Dann Zinn, drummer Wally Schnalle and pianist Murray Low performed at the San Jose, Monterey and Stanford Summer Jazz festivals. Later Jim toured Italy multiple times with both the San Jose Jazz Festival Quartet and the Gulio Capiozo Quintet. Currently Jim is a faculty member (Professor of Jazz Guitar Studies) at both San Francisco State and Santa Clara Universities. He also teaches through the Google Corporate Arts program (CSMA) and has a private teaching studio located in downtown Mountain View. Jim continues to work as both a leader and sideman with such Bay Area musicians as Adam Shulman, Akira Tana, John Worley, Matt Clark, Lorca Hart, Dann Zinn, Wil Blades, Andrew Speight, Jason Lewis, Brian Ho and others. from www.jimwitzelmusic.com
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