Home » Jazz Articles » Adam Shulman: Just The Contrafacts

Album Review

Adam Shulman: Just The Contrafacts


Sign in to view read count
Adam Shulman: Just The Contrafacts
For those who may be scratching their heads about the word contrafact, in the jazz medium it designates a musical composition in which a new melody is overlaid on a familiar harmonic structure. This form really became prominent in the bebop era, where the artists (who were generally short of financial resources) could create new compositions over which they could improvise and record without worrying about paying royalties for copyrighted materials.

During the depths of the 2020 lockdown, pianist Adam Shulman like most musicians and other artists, was struggling to find a way to express himself and so started writing contrafacts based on standard tunes from the Great American Songbook. As the project progressed, he sensed that a possible next step was to write sextet arrangements for these pieces which might lead to a recording at an appropriate moment in the future.

The recording became a reality on November 3, 2021 when the sextet assembled at the Van Gelder Recording Studio in Englewood Cliffs New Jersey, where Maureen Sickler would engineer the session. The sextet comprised a couple of trusted old friends, alto saxophonist Cory Weeds, and tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart, along with some bold faced names such as trumpeter {[Jeremy Pelt}}, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond.

The seven tracks recorded that day all bear somewhat whimsical titles in keeping with Shulman's desire to find a way to soothe himself and have fun. The initial track is "Spare Change" which is a mid-tempo swinger with some unison playing from the front-line lead by Pelt's trumpet which states the theme. Thereafter, Stewart's tenor saxophone riffs off the theme with a strong solo. Pelt was not to be outdone with his efforts and then Weeds offers his thoughts before Shulman takes care of business before the close out.

An interesting parlour game would be to puzzle out the names of the underlying standard compositions such as that associated with "Corpus And Spirit." If one guessed "Body And Soul" that would be correct. However the boppish lines that Shulman has written for the sextet would belie the foundational material and original tempo. Be that as it may, after a strong introduction from Shulman, including some block chord interjections, the band fearlessly runs through the complex arrangement with aplomb, with all the soloists elaborating on what the structure of the number has to say.

The remaining tracks "Lover? I Hardly Know Her,""What Is This Thing Called?" and "Not So Easy To Love," are easily clarified but the music remains intricate. However this band is not easily knocked off its game and they always know where they are even when playing complex themes. This is a well-delivered antidote for these unusual times.

Track Listing

Spare Change; More Please; What Did You Did To Me? Corpus And Spirit; Lover?I Hardly Know Her; What Is This Thing Called?;Not So Easy To Love


Adam Shulman: piano; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Cory Weeds: saxophone, alto; Grant Stewart: saxophone, tenor; Peter Washington: bass; Billy Drummond: drums.

Album information

Title: Just The Contrafacts | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Cellar Records

Post a comment about this album



Light As Never
Linus + Økland/Van Heertum/Zach
Live At Mobydick Records
The Michael Lauren Trio


Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.