(Originally Published: April 2002)
Unlike many musicians who ply their trade in New York, Adam Rogers has been doing it all his life, being, as he is, a lifelong resident of Manhattan. Since 1990, he has appeared a on over fifty recordings so diverse, that many fans know him as an expert player in different genres. For example, his gigging and recordings with Lost Tribe, saxman Bill Evans, and recently, Matt Garrison, have built his renown as a great player in the electric jazz idiom, whereas work with John Zorn, David Binney or Uri Caine make him identifiable as a downtown mainstay. Working with Cassandra Wilson, Regina Carter or either Brecker shows his straight ahead talents, and he has recorded and performed klezmer and middle eastern classical music with Giora Feidman and David Krakauer and Simon Shaheen. He's also an accomplished pop player, as recordings with Elvis Costello, Vitamin C and Alana Davis will confirm, and he brings real classical credentials to table as well, having studied and performed the idiom intensively at Mannes College in the eighties. The above is not intended to indicate that he is a jack-of-all trades, but truly, a modern-day, master multi-stylist.
With this interview, AAJ is privileged to break the news that Adam has just finished the recording session for his first date to be released as a leader, with the Netherlands based Criss-Cross label. Also featuring Clarence Penn on the kit, Scott Colley on bass and Edward Simon on piano, it should hit the shelves later this year. This comes as great news for those who have so enjoyed some Adam's a la carte work, but yearn for the full course treatment. It emphasizes the straight-ahead, small group setting he's pursued with his own units for a few years now, and will surely extend the reach of his deserved reputation as one of the world's top handful of guitarists in the genre. I recently caught up with Adam in between fulfillment of his all-too-justifiably full engagement calendar.
AAJ: What factors most strongly contributed to you finally getting a solo project together?
AR: I've been writing music since I was in my teens so I've always looked to have an outlet for my own compositions. As early as I can remember-certainly, when I got into jazz, I was always enthralled and inspired by amazing playing but as equally enthralled and inspired by composition. When I first started playing, I tried to write my own music as well, which then requires you have some kind of ensemble to play it. I've always had some kind of project or group as an outlet for composition.
AAJ: So this wasn't a standards date. This was your own set of tunes.
AR: We recorded nine tunes one of which is the standard "Long Ago and Far Away". The rest are original compositions.
AAJ: I was actually asking because I think of Criss -Cross as a label that does dates of leaders playing standard tunes.
AR: I'm not sure if that's the concept. They like to record hard swinging music. The records are done quickly so it's a little bit more of a challenge to realize and execute hard compositions. It's certainly easier to go in and play tunes everybody knows and just concentrate on the playing, but if I have a record date I want to write for it. I want to place an emphasis on writing something where I'm challenged to create a medium to improvise.
AAJ: So you had one day?
AR: All their records are done in a day.
AAJ: How was this recording done?
AR: Live to 8 track, so we'll mix and edit it a little later. I also really love doing records live to two track in a short period of time. As long as you can get a really great sound and enough rehearsal.
AAJ: Which for guys in your league is like a cup of coffee, right?
It depends on how hard the tunes are and also, with any music, the more you know it the more you can expound on it. If you do a couple of rehearsals and everyone knows the tunes to the point where you can execute them correctly, it's different than if you were playing them on a tour for a month. The level of interpretation is much higher and people are adding things. If you're glued to the page, you might be playing it correctly, but it's nice when people know the music enough to be really creative with it.
Given all that, I was very happy with the way the record turned out. Everybody did a great job. Three of my favorite musicians in the world-Scott Colley on acoustic bass, Clarence Penn on drums and Edward Simon on piano.
AAJ: Maybe you could expound on your band. Where would people know Ed Simon from?
AR: He played with Paquito D'Rivera, Bobby Watson. The last 5 or 6 years he's been playing with Terence Blanchard. He also plays with John Patitucci. He's made three solo records. The first with Anthony Jackson and Horacio el 'Negro' Hernadez. Then he did a thing on Kokepelli with Mark Turner, Adam Cruz and Larry Grenadier..a beautiful record. Most recently he made a record for one of my best friends and a phenomenal alto saxophonist Dave Binney's label, Mythology records again with Turner and Cruz, called la Bikina. He's from Venezuela and has an incredible understanding of Latin music. A great soloist and accompanist. I played with him in 1989 on Binney's first record with Lonnie Plaxico and Smitty Smith on Owl records. He consistently creates really interesting and exciting musical events when he improvises. He also has an amazing touch.
Scott Colley I've been playing with for going on ten years. He is a real virtuoso, a great soloist and has an incredible feel and sense of time. We did his last solo record which will be coming out on Palmetto records. That's myself, Bill Stewart, Ravi Coltrane and Scott. We've played a lot with Dave Binney and with Mike Brecker, who we recently did a string of dates with in Boston.
AAJ: Does Scott tour with Mike when he brings Larry Goldings out?
AR: No, that was just me, Larry, Michael and Idris, or Clarence.
AAJ: That band is killing! You really get to stretch.
AR: Just such a great situation in so many ways. Michael is, needless to say, one of the great saxophonists in the world.
AAJ: One of greatest improvisers' ever.
AR: Just amazing. It's a very open situation and he's such a great person to play with and work with, on all levels. Something that's challenging, fun and creative. I've worked with Clarence Penn in Michael's band and with a Danish bassist named Chris Minh Doky. I played on Clarence's last record for Japanese Verve which we did last fall which is kind of like a world music/Brazilian record. I don't think he's finished mixing it so it's not out yet. That's with James Genus, Steve Wilson, Ed Simon and Claudia Acuna. From what I've heard of it, it's really beautiful. Clarence is also so great to play with. He swings so hard and plays in a way that really complements what you're doing.
AAJ: You've got a lot of stuff that could all hit simultaneously there.
AR: I guess there'll be a lot of records coming out. I did a lot of recording this past fall.