I've often said the only thing that has remained steadfast and constant in my life has been my music- listening, composing, and performing.  I've performed in big bands as a trombonist and in small jazz groups as a pianist for almost seventy years.  I remember back to 1950 when, as a sophomore in high school,  I joined the local musician's union, along with my buddies Dave Campbell, John Milik, Bobby Vinton (THE Bobby Vinton, only he was Stanley Vinton back then).  The first band I played in was Count Cavi and His Cavaliers in Canonsburg.  Then it was on to Idol Jordan, Bobby Vinton, Russ Romero, Lee Barrett, and some I've forgotten...  

In recent years I've been composing and arranging primarily in my home studio, to which I've always referred as the Far Pavilions Studio. I chose this name because it has a faraway fantastic ring to it, reminding me of something not quite reachable or attainable, sort of like the mystical place described by Edward Lear: "...the land where the Bong tree grows..." 

 This page contains music that I created with MidiLab/2.  It's a collection of CD albums and other individual favorite tunes.  All selections were produced in my home studio, all non-piano parts played on a Yahama DX7 keyboard and integrated with my Yamaha C7 Grand Piano, which was recorded on a Tascam 8-track tape machine synchronized to the computer and MidiLab/2.  (huh?)

 I hope you enjoy listening!

If you have trouble downloading and playing, make sure your computer is enabled to play MP3 music files. Also, your security settings or anti-virus program may be blocking file downloads.  You'll need to enable file downloading, at least temporarily.

My Brush With Greatness

I sat in with the great Richie Cole during his appearance at Sebastian's, where I was playing a regular gig.  My kids whispered something in his ear, and he called out "Where's Jim Bell?" and I went up and sat down at the piano.  Richie decided to play Swingin' Shepherd Blues, a safe & simple B-flat blues tune, since he didn't know me from Adam.  Well, I did all right, and even took a chorus or two.  What a kick that was!

A few YouTube piano selections

(click the YouTube logo                     


In 1994 I produced Pavilions, my first music CD, including a composition that I wrote in 1987 entitled Suite for Orchestra, along with a few other original compositions.  It was a gratifying project, enabling me to get a look behind the scenes of what it takes to produce a CD.  Here are some of the liner notes from the jacket.

Pavilions is a diverse mix of compositions ranging from classical forms through jazz/pop to the latest directions in musical style. Each is remarkable in that all instrumental parts and sounds are derived from a single performer via a keyboard, then subsequently blended and synchronized with state-of-the-art music technology.

Suite for Orchestra is a work in five movements, employing a common unity of thematic material. The first of these movements, Tema con Variazione, opens with a cannonade of brass and woodwind figures under a fountain of glittering percussive tones, announcing the cardinal theme for the first time. We are then led through a brief labyrinth to an extended rubato piano solo, accompanied by the virtual orchestra. As the solo completes its closing cadenza, we are abruptly returned to the discipline of tempo by a rumbling, protracted crescendo, spiraling upwards for five octaves, to a reprise and conclusion of the opening sequence. Having thus exposed hints of the themes in this initial oratory, the remaining four movements of the suite provide each the opportunity to further develop within a pastiche of frameworks, ranging from the melodic Andante Cantabile to the funereal Elegia.

Celebration and Mare Tranquillitatis demonstrate the ability of recent music technology to use sounds and playing techniques that do not and cannot occur in the real world, a la musique concrete. Koko-no-Loco is a sampling of traditional Afro-Cuban jazz influence and improvisations; the 'untitled' composition is a structured version of melodies derived from late-night musings at the piano, while Ethernet features two versions of the same song performed in widely contrasting and opposed fashions.

James Bell has had long and successful careers simultaneously as a computer professional and as a jazz pianist and composer. In past decades he has also worked as a trombonist and arranger, traveling and performing with 'big bands' throughout the country. As the gap between computer technology and electronic synthesizers began to narrow in the mid 1980's, Jim discovered that it was now possible to transform into reality musical ideas that had long existed only in his mind, and the work that led to this album was begun. Pavilions represents a confluence of skills, talents, and artistry garnered over a lifetime of creative endeavor.


• Alesis HR-16
• Roland U220
• Yamaha TX816, TX81Z, SPX90, DX7

Computer sequencing software:

• MidiLab/2 for OS/2
    - designed and programmed by James Bell

C-7 Acoustic Grand Piano by Yamaha

Recorded and mixed at Far Pavilions Studio, Los Gatos, CA.

Pre-master editing at Sonic Images, San Jose, CA. (April 1994) Engineer: Tao
Mastered at Music Annex, Menlo Park, CA. (May 1994) Mastering Engineer: Tom Carr
Cover design and layout by Musical Services Unlimited, Seymour, MO

Suite for Orchestra (from Pavilions CD)

Orchestral scores were produced with Encore notation software, a product I've been using since 1991

Movement Audio Tracks
(MP3 format)
Full Score
(PDF format)
I - Tema con Variazione Play View
II - Andante Cantabile Play View
III - Allegro Agitato Play View
IV - Elegia Play View
V - Marcia al Trionfo Play View

Self Portrait

This CD is a compilation of my best efforts on favorite tunes

Left-click to play; right click and "save target/link as..." to download to your computer  


Maiden Voyage  Herbie Hancock
Memoirs of a Lady  Johnny Richards / B. Webb
Skyline   James Bell
Lush Life Billy Strayhorn
How Insensitive A.C. Jobim
Falling in Love with Love Rogers & Hart
Baby Elephant Walk Henry Mancini
Totally Unknown Unknown    (I don't know the name of this piece, but I love it)
Spring Can Really Hang You Up  Tommy Wolf
Delirio                                          Chucho Valdes
I Love You Cole Porter
Frame For The Blues Maynard Ferguson
There Will Never Be Another You   Harry Warren
Waltz For Debbie   Bill Evans
Emily   Johnny Mandel
The Night Has 1000 Eyes Buddy Bernier
Funky Butterfly James Bell (adapted from Pretty Butterfly)
Tenderly Walter Gross
They Say That Falling In Love Irving Berlin
Carson Chaser  Tommy Newsom

Other Selected Favorites

Soul Eyes - Of all the tunes I did with MidiLab/2, this is my favorite and personal best

Bellavia - Chuck Mangione's great tune

Fanfare For The Common Man - Aaron Copeland.  Great brass sounds

Wedding Processional - I wrote this for my son Jeff's wedding.  Snarling, Baroque organ.

The Stars and Stripes Forever - John Philip Sousa's magnum opus, with some liberties taken by me

Quiet Village - I think this one blows Martin Denny's version into the weeds

Another Unknown - I heard this one a long time ago, and it stuck with me.  I believe it was the Les McCann/Gerald Wilson big band

Ruby, My Dear - The tried and true Monk tune, played by me and a million others

Adventures on Earth  - by John Williams, from the movie E.T. , re-orchestrated and re-voiced by me  

Rock With Me - Michael Jackson's classic.   

Some Leroy Anderson pieces:

Fiddle Faddle

Bugler's Holiday


Downloadable choices:

One.mid  - (from A Chorus Line) Something I threw together just for fun.  (MIDI file)

Song for - An arrangement for an eight piece jazz group, with all parts and score, of a tune I composed for my old buddy Dave Campbell. 

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