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Take Five With Adam Nolan


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Meet Adam Nolan

Born on August 6, 1993, in Kilkenny, Ireland. Adam Nolan is at the forefront of modern free jazz. Each album is based on improvised concepts and styles forever growing and changing whilst maintaining flow-states achieved from meditation before the sessions and live performances. To date he has released over 15 albums and continues to change and develop his style. These days he has incorporated hip hop vocals and spoken word into the sets which has helped to break out of the strict jazz-only field into a more accessible and fresh new style of modern free jazz while still keeping it raw and pure.


Saxophones, piano, rap/vocals, drums, GarageBand/Logic pr.

Teachers and/or influences?

Ornette Coleman, Myron Walden, Kenny Garrett, Charlie Parker, Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Melvin Butler, Kaoru Abe, Fred Albert, Sam Rivers. The Rocky movies also inspired me to keep changing my style and work hard at it when training for an album. I prefer to call practicing 'training' because it makes it more epic and exciting leading up to a recording session or live gig.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

Drums was my first instrument and I always like jamming for ages. I think my roots are in that. I guess my music is like an evolved spiritual jam with all the things I'm trying to figure out during it being explored. Man, I love this.

Your sound and approach to music.

My sound is always changing but I do love a raw sound especially on the alto sax. I'm currently using size 1 Vandoren reeds with the mouthpiece that came with the Startone sax I have. I love the challenge of using instruments that aren't ranked high.

On tenor I prefer to be more smooth and gliding rather than raspy. I'm using a T901 Yani and have recently switched to a 4C Yamaha mouthpiece with size 1 Vandoren reeds.

I like to play with curiosity and risk while keeping a flow of momentum and flavour. I like to play free always, anytime I'm not playing free I feel like I'm in a box, it gets claustrophobic. When I'm playing free I feel free. Free to go wherever I wanna go at any moment. To explore the dimensions of sound is really an awesome way to explore consciousness and to grow from the inside out. My raps are the only part of the set that isn't improvised but I do freestyle too.

I'm really enjoying the hip hop vocals these days and have been writing lyrics and rhymes for years but it's now that I have a full set ready to go of lyrics, which is awesome. It was a lot of fun writing the lyrics and it feels great getting on the mic spitting rap in the middle of a free jazz gig. It just works in a really cool, authentic way. Much more to come. Best to come see me live because it's always new. I keep it fresh so I don't get bored and love changing up line-ups to experiment with different players. When I'm bored that's my signal for a change.

Your teaching approach

Practice the basics, intervals and keep refining your creativity while working on technique along with skill, agility and quick decision making. Write your own patterns and keep in the back of your mind that "I'm striving to be original but will learn from everything I can along the way too." Work on learning to still the mind with meditation. Build intuition, feel and always remember you're doing this to say or express something, not just to play anything. Play with intent.

Your dream band

I have my eye on a few heads, we'll have to see when I ask them in the future. So far the musicians I've been playing with are great and it's amazing to explore sound with them and see their own perspectives on things too. What I dig is when I don't have to say much and they already know what I'm about. When they 'get me' and just play with attitude and style in an authentic way allowing me that freedom to take them on the trip and supporting me during it. Pushing me and complementing what I'm trying to make sense of—helping the undiscovered to become manifested. That's the players I'm looking for. Risky and professional. Doing it to explore and grow.

Road story: Your best or worst experience

A woman got up on stage at the start of a gig before and began singing African chants so we just played along until security took her off the stage. ???? That was fun.

Favorite venue

I really enjoyed playing the Kilkenny Yulefest 2021. The staff were easy to work with and the sound was cool. Great lighting too. Plenty of space to dance around since the sets have got more rhythmic driven. That was also the first gig I performed where I done the hip hop vocals on. It was the opening of a fresh new door into something very exciting.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

It Is What It Is because it's so badass the whole way through. But when I reflect enough over my albums in time I may change my mind about that.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Risk, passion, flow-states and brutal honesty. I'm not afraid to make mistakes. I'm here to play jazz my way. I think I'm different from most musicians but maybe that's because I haven't met someone that thinks like me yet. That'll be fun when I do. My interest isn't playing standards but more perfecting my free improv so I can eventually execute anything I want in an instant but still leaving all the necessary room for spontaneity. The deep connection to the instrument and how I can fall into a flow-state when I start playing.

Did you know...

I also teach meditation and practise seven-star praying-mantis kung fu.

The first jazz album I bought was:

I think it was Charlie Parker's greatest hits.

Music you are listening to now:

Lots of hip hop, MF Doom, J Cole, Tribe Called Quest, Freestyle Fellowship, Rakim, NWA, Rage Against the Machine, Mos Def, Karou Abe, '90s RnB.

Desert Island picks:

Brian Blade and The Fellowship: Perceptual A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory Rage Against the Machine: Rage Against the Machine MF Doom: Operation Doomsday The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet: Free Jazz Hiroshi Yoshimura: Soundscape 1 Surround Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah Return to Forever: Return to Forever

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

It could be riskier. Needs to be less academic too. Jazz is better cool than nerdy.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Keep it on fire. More risk taking and less sheet music. With the right amount of spirit and ego.

What is in the near future?

Planning on touring in NYC hopefully this coming summer. Either way I'm going to NYC to check it out soon and start mingling in the hip hop and free jazz scenes. Many live performances and I am rapping these days along with producing pop and RnB music. Hopefully I will get my first electronic album finished before the end of 2022. I also have a solo saxophone album I'm going to release this summer titled God's Planet. So far that album has been the most emotional and physically and mentally demanding album I've ever recorded. I did it to push myself beyond my limits. I actually had to take a break from playing for a while after it because I wasn't sure where to go after it. I put my heart, soul and guts into that performance. I found myself ungrounded and lost for a while after it. It was recorded by the river Nore in Kilkenny so there's a lovely flowing river sound in the background. Looking forward to releasing that.

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

That aliens are going to come down and take me away in a middle of a great solo ????

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Time After Time" by Hiroshi Yoshimura. Also turn me into a tree instead of a coffin job.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

"What They Do" by The Roots

By Day:

I like to practice kung fu, meditate, read mind-expanding books, painting abstract canvases and socialise with people that stimulate my mind and help me grow in a positive way. Spending time with the family.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Surfer or a shaman.

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

Lao Tzu because he wouldn't have to talk to show you who he is. It'd just be so cool to be in his presence.

Favourite mindset:

Let's make it happen. Manifest the goals into the physical. Contribute to the collective consciousness. Live a life of joy and peace. I can do this.

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