Ben Adams Quintet
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Ben Adams Quintet

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Mar
22
Ben Adams Quintet @ La Taza de Cafe

Oakland, California, USA

Oakland, California, USA

Mar
15
Ben Adams Quintet @ La Taza de Cafe

Oakland, California, USA

Oakland, California, USA

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Music

The best kept secret in music

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Old Thoughts for a New Day
Ben Adams Quintet | Lunar Module Records
By Dan McClenaghan

It's difficult to describe an ensemble that's built around a vibraphone without using words like ”glowing” or “luminous.” Thanks to the mallet prowess of Steve Nelson, Dave Holland's bands, big and small, have those shining qualities. And so does Ben Adams' quintet on Old Thoughts for a New Day.

Adams and his group shape their sound without the input of a more traditional chording instrument (piano or guitar). This set walks a line between traditional and modern with an edgy aplomb. The leader's vibes often “glow” in the middle of things, an accompaniment mode he steps out of often for some dynamic, “luminous” solo turns. On the one hand, it's a standard quintet lineup: trumpet and tenor sax with a bass/drums/vibes rhythm section. On the other hand, the quintet's sound reflects an original approach, in large part due to a deft mix of different musical personalities which come together to from a cohesive ensemble blend.

Up front, trumpeter/flugelhornist Erik Jekabson and tenor saxophonist Mitch Marcus sound like a Jekyll and Hyde pairing. The trumpet solos feel relaxed, always in an easy flow, while the sax parts wind up the intensity with a contained neuroticism, like the blowing of some crazy--but very talented--street musician. Check out “The Actual” for a good example of this dynamic. The rhythm section (bassist Fred Randolph, drummer Sameer Gupta and Adams) moves forward like a flexible drive-train, churning ahead with a densely viscous lubrication.

Old Thoughts for a New Day presents a unique and interesting sound from a remarkably in-synch, modern-leaning ensemble.


Track Listing: Avery's Bedtime Song; Conversation with Martin; Patron Saint of Lost Causes; The Actual; Sheltered Circle; Old Thoughts for a New Day; Pocket Fiction; Ghost at Infancy; Sea of Cortez.

Personnel: Ben Adams: vibraphone; Erik Jekabson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fred Randolph: acoustic bass; Mitch Marcus: tenor saxophone; Sameer Gupta: drums.
- allaboutjazz.com


Ben Adams Quintet
Old Thoughts For A New Day (Lunar Module)
BAY AREA-BASED VIBESMAN Ben Adams is still a young and relatively unknown
commodity, yet he’s on to something on his third album. Here with trumpeter
Erik Jekabson, bassist Fred Randolph, drummer Sameer Gupta and tenor
saxophonist Mitch Marcus, Adams and company start in the straight-ahead vein
but wander afield – this set of originals have the unexpected harmonies of
Wayne Shorter’s compositions, the muscular musicianship of Dave Holland’s
quintet, and usually a snappy restlessness that keeps the band moving
forward. Highlights include a hard swinging “The Actual,” the classic
sounding “Pocket Fiction” and the knotty “Conversations With Martin,” which
rides the back of Gupta’s rhythms. Sometimes the band slows it down to the
point where they lose momentum (on the title cut in particular), but these
dry patches are only occasional.
– Tad Hendrickson
- jazzweek.com


Bebop not only lives….It reigns!! This is a group which edifies as they play!! Adams’s modern, contemporary approach to jazz vibes has a flair for the joyful....Certainly the creative......His gifts include a warm sumptuous tone with great accuracy, control, and imagination. His tight band provide the necessary platform to deliver his craft in sound order as well. His ability to keep the melodic & harmonic content candid, animate, & extensive has to serve him well as he emerges more on the jazz scene. These characteristics must help him as well to assimilate softly within any jazz group.....ergo, he must be very ‘easy’ to work with. I must say subjectively that I enjoyed listening to this disc immensely!

George W. Carroll/The Musicians’ Ombudsman
- ejazznews.com


This exceptionally talented vibraphone player and composer here demonstrates all his many skills in a set that ranges through introspective pieces to those that are urgent and powerful. Backed by bassist Fred Randolph and drummer Sameer Gupta and with the solo horns of Erik Jekabson, trumpet and flugelhorn, and Mitch Marcus, tenor saxophone, Ben consistently displays eloquence and elegance in music that is by turn reflective and thought provoking. Released on 13 June 2006, this is music of today but remains in touch with the past through Ben's awareness of the impact and importance of jazz masters who have gone before
- swing2bop.com


The vibraphone is not often a lead instrument, but Ben Adams brings it up front on this quintet outing featuring an erudite set of tunes that he wrote. The music breathes through several harmonic patterns, which makes it interesting all the way. The musicians contribute to make the experience all the more absorbing, maintaining focus and employing an impeccable sense of time and swing.

Adams chooses to open with “Avery’s Bedtime Song,” a lovely tune that floats gently on the flugelhorn of Erik Jakobsen, the nuances creating an elliptical path with their changes in emphasis. Mitch Marcus' tenor gives the melody a deeper hue, and with Adams’ coming, the atmosphere becomes more relaxed. The band swipes into the upbeat with the sprightly bop of “Conversation with Martin.” Sameer Gupta sets a pliant pulse on the drums before Marcus comes up with a big, brawny tone. Adams is lithe, indulging in the melody even as he pushes the structure and completes the lure.

The strongest quintet collaboration comes on “Pocket Fiction,” which skips in happily, the buoyancy kick-started by the horns. Gupta’s drumming is crisp, his accents changing on the cusp of the tempo. Adams swings lightly, his path lit by the language he evokes from the vibraphone. The beat and the mood take an angular turn on the dark lines brought in by Marcus. Finally, Jekabson gets into bop mode and brings the tune full circle, the weave now complete and quite splendid.


Track Listing: Avery’s Bedtime Song; Conversation With Martin; Patron Saint of Lost Causes; The Actual; Sheltered Circle; Old Thoughts for a New Day; Pocket Fiction; Ghost at Infancy; Sea of Cortez.

Personnel: Ben Adams: vibraphone; Erik Jekabson: trumpet, flugelhorn; Fred Randolph: acoustic bass; Mitch Marcus: tenor saxophone; Sameer Gupta: drums.
- allaboutjazz.com


As the title of this colorful, multi-mood jazz date promises, the innovative vibist is entering a new realm in which he's the main composer but the glorious ghosts of his inspirations are clear for all to hear. Ben Adams included a few originals on his critically acclaimed debut, The Figured Wheel, and then devoted Music for Six to the music of composer Todd Brindley Hershberger. On this collection, he and his explosive Bay Area-based quintet tap into those old thoughts for motivation, but the stellar material is all new. Vibe-wise (pun intended), the richly textured tracks range from the seductive and subtle beauty of the lullaby "Avery's Bedtime Song" to the swinging, hard-blowing "Conversation with Martin," the melancholy and slightly off-tone "Patron Saint of Lost Causes," and the bright, brassy Wayne Shorter tribute "The Actual." The most fascinating aspect of the set is the many ways Adams uses his shimmering vibes — as the bright lead melody over the darker tones of the title track, as a charged vehicle for improvisation (as on "The Actual"), and as a gentle harmony element behind the scorching horns of Erik Jekabson (trumpet, flügelhorn) and Mitch Marcus (tenor sax) on "Ghost at Infancy." A treat for serious vibes fans as well as adventurous, forward-thinking jazz fans in general, Old Thoughts for a New Day predicts a bright future ahead for both Adams and the tradition of his cherished instrument.
- allmusic.com


Old Thoughts For A New Day, the third cd from Ben Adams, shines a spotlight on the young veteran vibraphonist’s substantial talents as a skilled bandleader and innovative composer, in addition to his already established facility as a versatile soloist – more than living up to the promise of his first two well received discs. On his debut quartet album, The Figured Wheel, Adams showed himself to be a swinging disciple in the vibes tradition of Milt Jackson, playing both originals and jazz standards. On his second date, Music For Six, Adams’ vibes were presented performing the innovative contemporary music of composer Todd Brindley Hershberger within the context of a jazz quartet (with guitar) plus strings (violin and cello). Now, Old Thoughts For A New Day finds Adams leading his fiery Bay Area quintet through a program comprised completely of his own forward looking compositions.

Seeking to stretch the language of harmony with this date (much in the way Bobby Hutcherson did with his groundbreaking ‘60’s Blue Note titles), Adams foregoes the usual piano chordal accompaniment – much like the Dave Holland Quintet featuring Steve Nelson - choosing instead to allow his vibraphone (and writing) to investigate shifting tonal centers and unconventional harmonic progressions. The result is a record of refreshing compositions that inspire the creative impulses of the leader and his group’s other talented young members – trumpeter Erik Jekabson, tenor saxophonist Mitch Marcus, bassist Fred Randolph and drummer Sameer Gupta – each of whom make considerable contributions to the success of the satisfying disc.

The date opens with the pretty Avery’s Bedtime Song, a peaceful lullaby written by Adams for the young son of a friend. The soothing melody proves to be a particularly effective vehicle for Jekabson, whose thoughtful style of improvisation flows out of the tradition of such masters as Woody Shaw, Art Farmer and Booker Little. Adams shines as both an accompanist and soloist, first setting the dreamy background over which the horns state the theme and Jekabson solos, then embarking on his own finely crafted reflective improvisation.

Conversation With Martin, an Adams composition dedicated to an poet colleague, is a hard bopping jaunt that effectively evinces the intensity of one of the argumentative bard’s confrontational exchanges. Gupta’s drumming interjections enliven the song’s melodic line, which moves straight ahead over Randolph’s walking bass with occasional unexpected twists. Marcus’s dark boisterous tenor, displaying a wide range of influences from Wayne Shorter to David Murray, sets the extroverted tone, while Adams and Randolph contribute more measured statements to the exciting piece.

The ironically named Patron Saint of Lost Causes is an infectiously lilting Latin line that simultaneously portrays the incongruous emotions of melancholy and optimism implied in its title. Slight dissonances in the melody and solos that walk the line between strength and vulnerability by Adams, Jekabson and Marcus contribute to the song’s ominous spirit.

Adams’ tribute to Wayne Shorter, The Actual, was inspired by the great composer’s Miles Davis classic Prince of Darkness. The rhythmic anthem recalls the energy the saxophonist’s earlier days with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Randolph and Gupta providing the relentless drive over which Adams delivers his hard bopping solo, followed by Marcus, who takes things out, and Jekabson, who then executes a masterful, more conventional improvisation over the song’s chord changes.

The Sheltered Circle is an emblematic sixteen bar blowing excursion that kicks off with a short drum solo by Gupta before Jekabson and Marcus introduce the song’s pleasing bluesy melody that proves to be an excellent vehicle for swinging solos by Adams, Jekabson, Marcus and Randolph.

The date’s title track, Old Thoughts For A New Day, reflects Adams’ admiration for the writing of both Herbie Hancock and Kenny Wheeler. The pensive piece utilizes some uncommon harmonics at the beginning of the melody, providing its introspective character, but then modulates into a brighter mood, giving the impression of temporal movement. Solos by Adams and Randolph follow the song’s sense of direction

Pocket Fiction is a clear demonstration of Adams’ ability to stretch compositional conventions without sacrificing musicality. The vibrant track’s A section is an urgent straight ahead 4/4 outing with a bar in 2 at the end, while the tune’s bridge is a waltzing 3/4 segment. Adams stretches out with his improvisation, swinging hard over the walking bass line. Marcus begins blowing brooding legato lines over Randolph’s bass, then moves into more wildly extroverted expression as Gupta drumming becomes increasingly animated; Jekabson’s solo returns the piece to its boppish beginnings.

The simple staccato melodic line of Ghost At Infancy melds with its more complex harmonic form to make it on - Jazz Promo Services


Discography

Ben Adams Quintet- Old Thoughts for a New Day (Lunar Module Records, 2006)
Ben Adams Sextet-Music for Six, Ben Adams Sextet Plays the Music of Todd Brindley Hershberger (Independent Release, 2001)
Ben Adams Quartet-The Figured Wheel (Independent Release, 2000)

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Bio

Ben Adams

Ben Adams has natural talent and a rare incisiveness that has enabled him to create a sublime sound on the vibraphone. He produces tones and rhythms on his instrument that range between such distinctive features as delicate sensitivity to passionate, explosive energy. With acute artistry and versatility, Ben demonstrates the subtleties of a variety of diverse musical genres. He has recently released three albums as a bandleader that feature his deeply illuminating approach to jazz.

Education

Born in 1976, it was at the age of five that Ben Adams began his musical explorations by playing the piano. Ben immediately showed great potential by revealing an intuitive creativity. He was given formal, private lessons on the piano to nurture his talent where he was taught the fundamentals of both classical music and traditional jazz. By nine years old, he was learning to play the drums and other percussion instruments. His musical education continued in school as well as privately. Before graduating high school, Ben had achieved recognition for his singularity by receiving the “Kansas State Outstanding Percussion Award” four years consecutively (1990-1994) and also performing at the Kansas City Jazz Festival in 1993. Ben has an insatiable desire to advance his knowledge of music and consequently received a scholarship to study percussion at the University of Missouri, Kansas City-Conservatory of Music. It was during the time spent in Kansas City that Ben changed his emphasis from drum set to vibraphone, which has become his most personal instrument for deep expression. As well as studying at the Conservatory, Ben spent his evenings performing professionally at local venues. In the fall of 1996, Ben transferred to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where eminent vibraphonist Gary Burton is a faculty member, with a scholarship to pursue his jazz studies on the vibraphone. At Berklee, Ben studied privately with Grammy winning vibraphonist Dave Samuels (Spyro Gyra), Victor Mendoza, Ed Saindon, Hal Crook, and Dave Friedman.

Performance Highlights

Ben Adams has demonstrated his musical abilities on the vibraphone on stage with many respected musicians. An example of his professional performances as an instrumental sideman has been with Louis Bellson, Grachan Moncur III, George Garzone, Vince Wallace, Babatunde Lea, Marcus Shelby, Ray White (Frank Zappa), Bobby Vega (Tower of Power, Sly Stone), John Lockwood, Bruno Raberg, Steve Houghton, Steve Smith (Journey), Danny Gottlieb (Pat Metheny Group), Yoron Israel, and Bob Brookmeyer. As a leader of his own quartet, he has opened for such artist as Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Ben has also performed with his own quartet in some of Boston’s premiere jazz venues, including Ryles, Wally’s, Zeitgeist Gallery, and House of Blues, as well as performing at the ICA Theater. Since moving to California, Ben has quickly established himself as a mainstay in the Bay Area jazz scene, performing at Jazz at Pearl’s, Bruno’s, Shanghai 1930, The Jazz House, Jupiter, Café Claude, Cosmopolitan Café, Anna’s Jazz Island, Cigar Bar, Downtown Restaurant, Club Deluxe, Catalyst Cocktails, and La Taza de Cafe.
Recording History

At a relatively young age, Ben Adams is amassing quite a catalogue of recorded music, having recorded three critically acclaimed albums as a leader and having been featured as a sideman on a variety of recordings. His most recent and personal CD, Old Thoughts for a New Day, was released in June 2006 on Lunar Module Records. It was well received by critics and the general public, staying in the radio top 40 for four months. Ben has also just recorded a CD with trombonist/Jazz Legend Grachan Moncur III. His first album, The Figured Wheel, is a quartet outing. Covering a wide range of moods and styles, it features his original compositions and jazz standards. Music for Six, Ben Adams second recording as a leader, reunites with long-time friend and composer Todd Brindley Hershberger. This album, a study in contrasts, features Hershberger’s introspective compositions and avante garde improvisation. As a testament to his versatility, Ben recorded a series of piano/vibraphone duets with composer Chris Opperman. Selected works from that session will be featured on Opperman’s upcoming release. Ben has also recorded with folk singer Crystal Mattson on her debut album Crystal and with the hip-hop group True Monks of Funk.

Quotes

“Ben Adams is a young vibist who is continuing the noble tradition of improvised music.”-Dave Samuels

“As you know, I was impressed with your first CD, The Figured Wheel, which was a quartet recording; but that admirable effort hardly prepared me for the precise execution and original concept of the sextet. Both you as a leader and composer Todd Brindley Hershberger have demonstrated a unique