As the 12th of 13 children, James Robinson's musical influences were plentiful.
"There was someone playing the cello; there was piano being played all the time," Robinson, 48, said, describing his childhood home near San Jose. "I would go to sleep with older brothers and sisters practicing the piano in the living room -- it was magical."
The James Robinson Trio will play its brand of world-fusion jazz at the Ted Falasco Arts Center, 1105 Fifth St., at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1.
Trained in classical piano, Robinson moved on to the guitar at 12, influenced early on by Jimi Hendrix, the Isley Brothers and Delta blues. However, the trio's sound is decidedly different from rock, R&B or blues.
"I don't want to call what I do anything," Robinson said. "The easiest thing to do is call it world music, but then I play classical guitar and fusion jazz, (and) standard jazz.
"There's always some cool music going on somewhere, and I never want to stop learning."
The moment that changed his life, Robinson said, was when he brought home the LP of "Friday Night in San Francisco," a live album by blisteringly fast guitarists Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía.
"I remember buying it at Tower Records and bringing it home, and putting it on the record player," he said. "I had to check to see if it was on 45 or 33."
While it is exhilarating to play fast and push the limits, Robinson said, he likes to temper speed with good melody.
Accompanying Robinson will be Turkish musician Yuecel Karabulut, who will play the saz, cajon and doumbek, and former Robinson student Danny Yarritu.
Robinson said he plays with a variety of musicians -- his albums cover Flamenco, Iranian and Peruvian sounds, to name a few -- to change things up.
"It keeps it very fresh for me, and then (there's) the improvisational quality," Robinson said, adding that playing is a spiritual experience. "So much of this style, what I'm playing is based off of that moment."
Robinson has been a guitar instructor almost as long as he's played. He said he teaches a variety of skill levels at Santa Cruz-based Pearl Alley Music School.
"Music should be in everyone's life. It's such a great language," he said.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
James Robinson Trio performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Ted Falasco Arts Center, 1105 Fifth St. Tickets are $20 at the door, with a limited number of $5 student rush seats. To hear Robinson's music, visit www. james-robinson.com.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.