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Terry Adams: Terrible [Deluxe Edition]

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Terry Adams: Terrible [Deluxe Edition]
Terry Adams is best known for his work with the seminal band, NRBQ (New Rhythm & Blues Quartet). Their self-titled debut (Columbia, 1969), included Sun Ra's "Rocket Number Nine." The follow-up was a collaboration with early rock legend Carl Perkins called Boppin' The Blues. In 1974 singer, songwriter, and guitarist extraordinaire, Big Al Anderson and drummer Tom Ardolino joined the band. For the next 20 years that lineup thrilled live audiences around the world. In 1994, Anderson (dismayed by the band's lack of success) left and was replaced by bassist's Joey Spampinato younger brother Johnny.

The quartet was known for its live performances, containing a high degree of spontaneity and levity, and blending rock, pop, jazz, blues and Tin Pan Alley styles. The band has never been easy to pigeonhole, with a repertoire that ranged from traditional folk-blues ("Dutchess County Jail") to jazz (Sun Ra and Thelonious Monk) and novelty tunes (homages to the Three Stooges and pro wrestling icon Captain Lou Albano). They played standards ("Getting to Know You") and pub rock classics ("Me and the Boys," Green Light"). Their songs have been covered by a Who's Who of the pop music world. Additionally, Adams produced and wrote the liner notes for a Monk two-record set of previously unreleased recordings, Always Know (Columbia, 1979).

Adams was always the driving force behind the band and its musical direction. His unique piano approach would range from hard-driving rock, R&B and swing but was always quirky. Perhaps the best description would be to imagine Monk on a light dose of acid. So when Adams released his debut solo album, Terrible (New World Records, 1995) it came as no surprise that it was an eclectic hodge-podge of his various styles and influences. Well-known music journalist Peter Keepnews, who composed an essay for the original release, wrote "To the degree that labels count for anything, this is a jazz album. But it's not like any jazz album you've heard before because it's also the first Terry Adams album in the history of the universe." A remastered Deluxe Edition of the album with four bonus tracks lets us revisit this gem.

Adam's choice of sidemen for the project is telling. There are three alumni from Sun Ra's band, Marshall Allen, Tyrone Hill and Knoel Scott. Roswell Rudd (whom Adams first met when they both worked with Carla Bley's band in 1977) is also featured along with bassist Greg Cohen, best known for his work with John Zorn. Bobby Previte, drummer for Jane Ira Bloom and Wayne Horvitz is here, as are two members of Whole Wheat Horns, NRBQ's occasional horn section. They are Adams' brother Donn Adams on trombone and Jim Hoke on alto and flute. Dave Gordon plays trumpet. Finally, (as if that were not enough) the other three members of NRBQ (the Spampinato brothers and Ardolino) appear on half the tracks on the album.

It opens with "Toodlehead," a simple, playful tune with Adams playing Japanese organ before switching to piano as the soloists begin. Hoke on soprano and Rudd on trombone give the song some meat. He returns on organ for his solo before the band comes back in.

There are a couple of ballads, "Venusian Sunset" and "Thinking Of You." The former had a wonderful horn arrangement and a hint of Duke Ellington's "Take The A Train." Allen enters full force with Eric Dolphy-like exhortations before Adams plays a deceptively simple solo. The latter is taken mid-tempo with a horn section of alto, trombone and trumpet. "Yes, Yes, Yes" is a trio recording with Cohen on bass and Previte on drums, providing tasty support. It alternates between the angular and percussive style Adams is known for and straight-ahead swing.

Adams shows his bop chops with "Say When," an up-tempo track with driving piano and drums supported by five horns and flute. Scott's alto and Gordon's trumpet get to solo, while "Brother" showcases Scott on soprano in a quartet setting.

Not surprisingly, there are a few Monk-influenced tracks here. "Hilda" is a simple melody played as a quartet. Rudd on trombone and Adams are the primary soloists. "I Feel Lucky" is another Monk-style track, both in melody and approach. It features NRBQ with Hill's trombone and Gordon's trumpet.

"Out The Windo" is a bluesy bop blowing session. It features Hill, Gordon and Allen on the frontline with NRBQ's backup. "These Blues" closes the original release and is a barrel-house blues. It is the only vocal on the record and Adams shows here what he does best. NRBQ provides the foundation while four horns, two harmonicas and the piano get to jam with Adams singing his goofy blues lyrics.

Finally, there are two meditative Japanese-type folk songs. "Little One" is highlighted by the ethereal sound of the three flutists underscored by two trombones and Adams's harmonica subtle chordings. That is followed by "Distant Instant." Adams performs it entirely solo on dulcitone (an instrument where sound is produced by a range of tuning forks that vibrate when struck by felt-covered hammers activated by the keyboard). The four bonus tracks don't add much new. There's another solo dulcitone piece, a second take of "Say When" plus another original showcasing Adams abilities on the electric DX7. The highlight is "Wrong Gasket," which Adams previously released on Ten By Two (Edisun, 2005) a duo album with Marshall Allen.

This is an engaging and eclectic potpourri of music and styles. Sun Ra said about Terry Adams, "Terry is well-known because he has true talent, not because he's aggressive. He cares about music. He hears music. He may not speak the same language as most people, but he can reach them anyway." Added to the previously mentioned Keepnews line, "it's not like any jazz album you've heard before -because it's also the first Terry Adams album in the history of the universe," sums up the essence of this record beautifully.

Track Listing

Toodlehead; Venusian Sunset; Say When; Yes Yes Yes; Hilda; Brother; I Feel Lucky; Out The Windo; Little One; Distant Instant; Thinking Of You; These Blues; Wrong Gasket; Thedy; Kalimba; Say When (Take 2).

Personnel

Marshall Allen
saxophone, alto
Tyrone Hill
trombone
Knoel Scott
saxophone, alto
Roswell Rudd
trombone
Greg Cohen
bass, acoustic
Dave Gordon
trumpet
Donn Adams
trombone
Jim Hoke
saxophone, alto
Joey Spampinato
bass, electric
Johnny Spampinato
guitar, electric
Additional Instrumentation

Terry Adams: keyboards (1-8, 10-16), harmonica (9); Marshall Allen, alto sax (2, 8, 11, 12, 13) flute (3, 9, 16); Tom Ardolino: drums (1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 14); Greg Cohen: bass (1, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11); Dave Gordon: trumpet (2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12,16); Jim Gordon: harmonica (12); Tyrone Hill: trombone (2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16); Jim Hoke: alto (3, 12, 16), soprano sax (1, 6), flute (9), harmonica (14); Bobby Previte: drums (3, 4, 5, 9, 16); Roswell Rudd: trombone (1, 5); Knoel Scott: alto sax (3, 16), flute (9); Donn Adams: trombone (3, 9, 16); Joey Spampinato, bass (2, 7, 8, 12, 14: Johnny Spampinato: guitar (2, 7, 8, 12); Pete Toigo: bass (3, 9, 16).

Album information

Title: Terrible [Deluxe Edition] | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings


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