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Take Five With Adam Shulman

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Adam Shulman: Adam Shulman has been a staple of the San Francisco Jazz scene since he moved to the city in 2002. Before the move, Adam was a student at UC Santa Cruz where he studied with the great Smith Dobson and the trumpeter/arranger Ray Brown. He received his degree in classical performance under the tutelage of the Russian pianist Maria Ezerova. Currently, Adam plays regularly with Marcus Shelby in large and small group contexts and with Anton Schwartz mostly in a trio setting. He can also be seen as a sideman with countless bay area musicians and vocalists such as John Wittala, Vince Lateano, Kitty Margolis, Andrew Speight, Dayna Stephens, Ian Cary, and Mike Zilber.

Adam has played as a sideman with internationally renowned artists Stefon Harris, Willie Jones III, Miguel Zenon, Luciana Souza, Paula West, Bobby Hutcherson and with the Glen Miller Orchestra.

Instrument(s): Piano.

Teachers and/or influences? Smith Dobson

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... It seemed the only option. I delivered the mail for a year after college and after that year I knew that I didn't want to waste my life doing something I didn't love.

Your sound and approach to music: My sound mostly comes out of the bebop tradition. I learned the linear eighth-note approach by listening to all the bebop piano players: Bud Powell, Tommy Flanagan, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Barry Harris, Bill Evans. etc. I also love modern jazz and my playing is heavily influenced by Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, and Brad Mehldau.

I love listening to and emulating other instrumentalists besides pianists particularly in their linear approach.

Your teaching approach: I try to break everything down so that students can absorb stuff in doable chunks. Learning jazz can be a daunting endeavor so I try to give a general blueprint of what we're going to learn and then slowly flesh it out.

It's kind of like making a painting. First you make a general sketch to figure out where everything's going to go. You save painting the little shiny reflection on the nose till the very end. If you start with the details, you never get the big picture.

Your dream band: I'm already working with my dream band.

Favorite venue: It would have to be Kuumbwa in Santa Cruz. I saw so many great shows there when I lived in Santa Cruz. It's such an intimate place and the vibe is so supportive. It facilitates some magic moments.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? That would be my most recent date under my name Patterns of Change. I feel the most proud of this record and feel that it reflects where I am musically right now.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Miles Davis Nefertiti (Columbia, 1967).

CDs you are listening to now:

Mike Moreno, Between the Lines;

Billy Holiday and Teddy Wilson, Chronological Classics;

Sonny Stitt, New York Jazz;

Jim Hall, The Complete Jim Hall.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Jazz is very much alive. I hear so many people making really wonderful interesting music, combining elements from classical and rock and music from different cultures to create new unheard combinations. Also, in the performance of historical jazz, there is so much good stuff out there. I think the problem with the state of jazz today is exposure. There are so few places to play live music. Almost all the clubs are gone and unless you are already a fan and seek it out online, you will not be exposed to jazz out there in the world.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? I think we need places to play. I think it's great that jazz is alive and well in our education system. The problem is that you've got tons of great players graduating each year and no gigs. Everyone's competing for a handful of gigs. The profession of musician must a financially viable one for the continuation of the music's growth.

What is in the near future? I am in the process of recording a group of classical art songs that I wrote with the wonderful soprano Katy Stephan. They are heavily influenced by the art songs of Gabriel Faure and Hugo Wolf.


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