Though Grammy and Emmy nominated composer, trumpeter and arranger Greg Adams left Tower of Power after 25 years in the mid-90s to launch a successful solo career, he’s obviously still a fan of the large ensemble, explosive horn section vibe that he was part of with that legendary band. His new group, East Bay Soul, which he launched in 2009 with a powerful self titled debut album, has all the dynamic characteristics of TOP—cool soul ballads balanced by sizzling brass textures and elements of blues, funk and rock. The band’s follow up, East Bay Soul 2.0, is proof that this Bay Area legend still knows how to party while leaving space to get sensual with the many emotions his trumpet and flugelhorn are capable of.
In the middle of “Back To Oakland,” one of the greasy and grooving, funked up and bluesy tracks on the new ten track set, vocalist Darryl Walker follows a heated Michael Paulo sax solo by asking “Where’m I gonna go?” A few of the other guys respond, “Back to Oakland.” Even though the song seems to be about being out on the road and returning to a home base, the sentiment works metaphorically as well, bringing Adams back (in a fully contemporary setting, with new cats) to the vibe that defined the region during an earlier era. This is the East Bay in 2012, and it’s every bit as exciting as anything Adams did with TOP back in the day and even more so.
The set offers a nice balance, almost like a split personality, between funked up brass jams and gentler romantic offerings. The high energy, dance like your pants are on fire tunes include the scorching, percussive opener “The Getaway,” whose instrumental hook is played by the horns but punctuated on and off by Adams’ soulful trumpet; and the rockin’, soaring explosion “Brassalicious” (which begins with a sly trumpet before the horns kick in and ultimately build towards a blistering, electric guitar driven crescendo).
The late night sweetness comes in via tunes like the first vocal ballad, “The Love of My Life,” whose classic Quiet Storm ambience takes off thanks to Walker’s silky vocals; and the lush declaration “Once and For All.”
Sometimes, the dreamy cool side of the band’s artistry is expressed instrumentally, as on the simmering, old school blues soul tune “To Catch A Thief,” whose moody flugelhorn melody was inspired by the 1953 Alfred Hitchcock film. Adams says, “In writing the song, it conjured up the role played by Cary Grant, ‘The Cat.’ Other essentials include the easy flowing cover of “What’s Goin’ On” and the bluesy closing vocal ballad “I’m Coming Home,” about a soldier returning to the family he left behind. Adams says the song literally dropped in his lap as an emailed untitled demo from a fan. Though it has horns, some cool Hammond B3 courtesy of Joey Navarro and an Adams flugelhorn spotlight, there’s still an intimacy to the arrangement.
Aside from the great music on East Bay Soul 2.0, the most inspiring aspect to the project is that it was 100 percent fan funded. Happily, Adams and his explosive crew gave everyone who pitched in their money’s worth!
More Information on Greg Adams here