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ClassicsOnline Home » ADAMS, Clifford: The Master Power
By Fred Wesley
Clifford Adams, the 'bonist with Kool & the Gang, is one of the best in the world
By Clark Terry
The leading exponent to the crown of the retired J.J. Johnson, consummate musician, the be-bopper's bopper. Clifford is a bad M-F, and you can call that a bad Maryland farmer if you want to
By Curtis Fuller
Clifford Adams has truly become a great master of the trombone with uncanny technique. His long tenure with Kool & the Gang has given him a stronger persona. I see the best of the best for Clifford Adams in the years to come
What do Wynton Marsalis, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey, Sarah Vaughn, Max Roach, Nancy Wilson, Jimmy Cliff, Regina Belle, Joe Williams, Spirit of Life Ensemble, The Four Tops, Harold Melvin and Kool and the Gang all have in common? They all have had the distinct honour of working intensively with Mr Clifford Adams. Born on the 8th of October, 1952 , in Trenton New Jersey, Clifford had a strong appreciation for classical jazz in his pre-teen years. As his voice showed promise in the choir at the age of twelve, it was in junior high school that Clifford experienced a life altering revelation when he was introduced to the trombone. In 1973 he was in the horn section for the Stylistics world tour followed by a two year stint with the world famous Thad Jones / Mel Lewis big band. After playing with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, then headed by Mercer Ellington, he did a European tour with Max Roach before formally joining Kool and the Gang. Generations of people are familiar with his trombone solos on ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free* from Regina Belle and Kool’s ‘Joanna* plus the much celebrated ‘Slam Dunk* released last year by Kool featuring Clifford Adams on the ‘NBA at 50* multi-platinum selling album.
THE MASTER POWER is Clifford Adams* remarkable and long overdue recording début as leader. It’s a testament to Clifford’s very special talents that he was able to assemble such a top group of outstanding musicians to perform his original music so supportively and with such high artistic levels with the benefit of only one rehearsal * plus record it all in one six-hour recording session!
Truly this is what jazz is all about - spontaneity, passion, and soul!
The musicians on this recording are virtually household names in the jazz community and are all recording stars in their own right. Pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Lewis Nash have extensive credits as sidemen and leaders plus, along with his many other credits, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart received a Grammy award nomination for his latest Impulse release. Percussionist Neil Clarke can be heard with the bands of Randy Weston and Gary Bartz.
The opening track, Darshan’s Love, is written for Mr Darshan Singh, Clifford’s spiritual mentor. An energetic original from Clifford, the first soloist heard is Antonio Hart on alto saxophone followed by burning solos from Clifford on trombone and Kenny Barron on piano.
I Can’t Get Started, the well known Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin standard, originally made famous by Bunny Berigan, is given a latin treatment here. This one features Clifford with the full rhythm section for the first two choruses. Kenny Barron follows with a swinging, one chorus solo then Clifford returns to take the melody out from the bridge.
Graceful Feeling, is an original composition inspired by thoughts of Darshan. It’s a lilting 3/4 piece featuring solos from Clifford, Kenny and bassist Ray Drummond.
Renatyah, a beautiful ballad written for his wife, shows Clifford’s romantic side. His big warm sound and lyrical qualities are showcased here. The quartet’s restrained accompaniment is a highlight and includes a beautifully understated solo from pianist Kenny Barron.
The Lord Is Always With Them (for Ravi and Farid), written to celebrate his two young sons, is a medium tempo groove based on the changes of a well known jazz standard. Clifford takes two hard swinging choruses highlighting his remarkable double timing facility, Kenny and Ray both get their chance to comment on the proceedings then Clifford and Kenny trade eight bar phrases with drummer Lewis Nash for two choruses before the melody returns.
With His Grace, a bright latin piece, begins with a high energy solo from Kenny. Clifford then follows with a solo that briefly enters the stratosphere before a short percussion interlude from Neil Clark introduces the last melody statement.
Walkin*, the Richard Carpenter blues made famous by Miles Davis, is taken at a medium tempo which enables everybody to ‘tell it like it is*. Clifford begins with an impassioned solo followed by Antonio on alto showing his mastery of the idiom. Kenny and Ray follow with swinging solos and the piece ends with Clifford, Antonio and Kenny trading fours with Lewis for another two choruses.
Suite Elixir of Life, a performance that shows the influence of both John Coltrane and Leon Thomas, features Clifford’s début as vocalist. The profound feeling, control, depth and vibrato in the vocal is flavoured with Clifford’s trademark signature of an African Mandrill sounding his call at dawn. Antonio Hart follows this with a soulful soprano saxophone solo.
Precious Jewel, another sensitive ballad from Clifford’s pen, has Kenny soloing first with a beautifully understated solo. Clifford follows with a solo that shows his warm tone to full advantage.
Master Power, a high energy burner closes out the set. Clifford sets the pace with a sizzling couple of choruses followed by Antonio, Kenny and a chorus from Lewis Nash.
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ADAMS, Clifford: The Master Power