Jim played alto saxophone and clarinet on the As Time Goes By album.
His first forays into music were as a chorister at Hexham Abbey. Singing has remained at the core of Tomlinson's musical concept, and although he is exclusively an instrumentalist these days, no one who has heard him deliver a ballad can be in any doubt that it is the song that is being played. "When I am playing a ballad, the lyrics are with me at all times. I phrase the tune to the lyrics which are playing in my head." This perhaps explains the extraordinary empathy between Tomlinson and Stacey Kent that led Andrew Vine, writing in the Yorkshire Post, to remark that the moment where Tomlinson's tenor haunts the vocal like a memory of better times, is simply magical.
So how did Tomlinson the treble become Tomlinson the tenor? "I took up clarinet at school but later, I heard that the county wind band needed saxophonists rather than clarinettists. So I borrowed a saxophone from the school for the audition and that was it! Then, by sheer chance, I came across a Charlie Parker record at a friend's house. There was a saxophone on the cover so my curiosity was roused. I put the record on and all I can say is that from that moment, I wanted to part of the music."
Tomlinson did not, however, study music formally until well into his twenties. Although he played saxophone as a hobby, he completed a degree in PPE at University College, Oxford. It was only then, having joined the Ritz's resident band, Vile Bodies, that he considered obtaining any sort of qualification in music.