Adam Cruz: Making Some Room
The music came to Cruz from different times and different inspirations. "At least half of the pieces I would keep visiting and revisiting over a period of years," says Cruz. "It's a great thing to do. If you take some space from it, you have a whole new perspective. I'm able to pull it in a different direction, bring some new material to it that, if I had tried to do it two weeks beforewhen I was in the midst of working on it for a couple hourswouldn't have happened. Something about that process of going away and coming back to it helped me to write it and keep it fresh. Then there are a few pieces that, as the deadline was getting closer to the recording, I felt I needed to balance the material out, so I was putting myself under the gun to write something more on-the-spot."
It was recorded with the musicians all in the same room to give it a live feeling. There was no one separated in booths, no overdubbing and minimal takes. There is no feeling that the drummer/leader is pushed forward, his band a supportive afterthought. This is cohesive music where each participant Adds a color and helps Cruz showcase his outstanding music.
"It was amazing. Everybody was so on. I couldn't have asked for a smoother session," says Cruz. "For me there's a question of expressing my identity as a drummer. But I've been doing that and I do that with other groups. And I do that here too, but I also felt it was important to put emphasis on my identity as a composer. Letting that be the focus. I didn't write a drum-heavy record. Because I was so involved with thinking about everybody else's partarranging the harmony and deciding how many times we'll play this or thatmaybe it didn't leave me as much time as I might have in a different group to consider the drumming. I was a little more pressed for time and more focused on the whole. Which is great. It probably made me play in a different way. If we had a tour or a week in a club somewhere, maybe I would have found other things on the drums, just from having more time with it. My focus was really on the whole and on the arrangements."
Milestone is a strong statement.
"I hope I'm starting another phase. I'm starting to write again," he says thoughtfully. "It's easy to get caught up with touring. And teaching, as well. I teach at City College in New York; I also teach at Princeton in New Jersey. Between that and touring with Danilo, or going out with [bassist] John Patitucci's trio this year, and different freelancing in New York, it could be easy to let the inertia of not being a leader, of falling into my work and letting Milestone be it for a while." But Cruz is not going to let it fall. He'll be looking for gigs and opportunities to get musicians together to play his music. "I don't imagine transitioning to being a bandleader exclusively. But it's definitely a dimension I'd like to add."
Cruz always had drums in his family and adapted naturally to them growing up in New York City where his father, Ray Cruz, played timbales in the 1970s with Mongo Santamaria and a salsa band called Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz. "He's known as a Latin percussionist, but he was really intrigued by jazz," explains Cruz. "He was obsessed with studying the drums and studying jazz. He was focused on players like Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey and Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. When I was a little kid growing up, I had this father who was a Latin percussionist, but also very intensely studying the drum set. I picked up on it right until my parents split up. He left me a drum set at the house. It became my passion when I was a teenager to pick up where he left off."
Cruz was playing as far back as he can remember, under his father's guidance. There are photographs of him sitting in front of a practice pad with drum sticks. He was exposed to jazz early on, but when he began getting serious about the drums as he grew older, he also listened to music of his day. "The Police. Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, with Harvey Mason, playing 'Chameleon.' I loved [drummer] Steve Gadd as a kid. Billy Cobham. Guys who were in more of a fusion direction. t was when I got to college that I kind of reconnected with more acoustic jazz. Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes and Tony Williams and Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey were, and are, my heroes. I was at an age where the profoundness they play with and the depth that they bring, I was able to digest it."