Some African cultures preserved their history not by the written but by the spoken word, kept by oral cultural historians known as griots. On Was Out Jazz Zone Mad
, vocalist Tony Adamo aspires to serve in this same role, as a verbal historian of both official and unofficial African-American jazz and blues culture. This type of jazz jive might wear quickly thin but Adamo writes about jazz and jazz musicians with such detailed intimacy and vision that his words snap, crackle and pop. More often than not, the heart, mind, and soul of Was Out Jazz Zone Mad
It helps immeasurably that Adamo regales such tales in the company of musicians expert in organ-guitar combo, small-club, greasy instrumental funk, led by drummer Mike Clark
of (Herbie Hancock
and) the Headhunters
and featuring drummer Lenny White
, organist Mike LeDonne
, percussionist Bill Summers
, guitarists Elias Lucero and Jack Wilkins
, and saxophonist Donald Harrison
. Their grooves are low-down and for real funky in the best possible way.
Thus inspired, Adamo's lyrical material is often magisterial. His description of saxophonist Joe "Sonic Henderson" cuts as sharp and bright and quick as lightning, and crosses from writing about jazz into writing that IS jazz: "Always diggin' into the hot-cool vocabulary of jazz to come up with notes that aren't always obvious but always fit...floating, thought-provoking sounds that were at times hard liquor jazz mixed with mad sex music..." All the while, this set's core triodrummer Clark, LeDonne on organ, and guitarist Wilkinstwist up the accompaniment in thick rhythmic knots, with Wilkins playing Melvin Sparks to LeDonne's Charles Earland
in their respective solos.
"Gale Blowin' High" honors jazz activist and trumpeter Eddie Gale
. Saxophone and trumpet help create a fuller, larger ensemble sound very much like late-1960s recordings by Sun Ra
and his Arkestra
, Pharoah Sanders
or like-minded wayfarers. Exploratory solos by Harrison (suggesting Sanders on alto), Wolff (suggesting Ra on piano) and White (suggesting no one but himself) pull and poke at the edges of this tune alongside Adamo's restless vocal.
In "Too Funky to Flush," Adamo unravels the best jazz tale of them allthe story of the city of New Orleans. Standing hip deep awash in a trio groove that's as deep and broad and powerful as the mighty Mississippi River, he sings the praises of Dr. John
, Professor Longhair
, Irving Mayfield and other denizens of the Crescent City's musical pantheon. (A local soul food kitchen's lunch and dinner menu specials make surprisingly good lyrics, too.)
Rain Man; Sonic Henderson; B.B. King Blues Oh Fire; Birth Of The Cool; General T;
Boogaloo The Funky Beat; Card Dealer; Gale Blowin High; To Funky To Flush; Jax
Bulldog Priest; I'm Out The Door; Let The Devil Pay My Way; Fly Jump Or Die.