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  February 2008
"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Greg Adams

greg adamsSmitty:  Joining me at Jazz is one of the most dynamic trumpeters in the business. I just love his horn playing. You no doubt remember him from his days with Tower of Power, those fantastic records during that time. No doubt you remember the beginning of his solo career with great records such as Firefly and Hidden Agenda and now he working on a fantastic tour and a new project in connection with it. Please give a great welcome for one of the most incredible trumpeters of our time, Mr. Greg Adams. Greg, how are you, my friend?

Greg Adams (GA): I doing good, Smitty. Great to be with you on the show.

Smitty:  Thank you. The pleasures mine as well. Well, talk to me about this great project because I think it’s very cool.

(GA):  Okay, well, the name of the band is East Bay Soul and you can find a lot more about it at Basically, it’s a concept of a bundling but not really bundling in the sense of that term.  I was doing that with Tower of Power in 1995 and ever since I left, people always would want me to play some kind of Tower of Power songs in my set and I resisted it for many years and I finally caved in and included a little snippet instrumentally of “What Is Hip?” and then we kind of added a little bit of a breakdown of—a baritone sax breakdown in Soul Vaccination and it’s gone over real big and then so I was thinking, you know? 

What if we do something that’s a little bit like bundling but not and come up with a new concept altogether?  And you’d have a record and it’s a live performance piece, and who knows?  Maybe a record will come out of it.  Trying to look at it that way.  And the personnel of the band is—my band has been with me for seven or eight years, and that’s a seven-piece band, and I’ve added to it Tom Scott or Eric Marienthal, or whoever has the scheduling, you know, opening, but Tom Scott worked for a few gigs on saxophones, and then Lee Thornburg, my former band mate from Tower of Power on lead trumpet, and on the vocals is Lenny Williams, the former singer from Tower of Power who really was the guy who sang the hits.

Smitty:  How well I remember.

GA:  “So Very Hard To Go,” “What Is Hip?” you know, all those great tunes. And so I called Lenny.  I said “What do you think?”  He said “I’m lovin’ it.”  So we’re getting out all of the old audio Tower of Power scores and dusting them off and re-writing the whole show.  We’re gonna do like one-third my solo material, my repertoire, and one-third of Lenny’s recent repertoire, which he’s been very successful the last few years with radio and urban, and of course the last third will be Tower of Power songs.  So, yeah, we’re gonna do “What Is Hip?” and “So Very Hard To Go” and perhaps some others. We’re still in the formative stages of putting this whole thing together, but we’re getting such positive feedback from some artists around the country that we’re gonna go into rehearsal really working at having a great show, so we have some dates coming up in the future.  We’re part of the City of Lights Jazz Festival.

Smitty:  Oh, in Vegas.

GA:  Las Vegas, and we’re doing four nights at Jazz Alley in Seattle, Washington, and Yoshi’s in San Francisco, and way in the future in September we’re doing the Ziegler Kettle Moraine, they’re just outside of Milwaukee.

Smitty:  Yeah, that’s a great gig.

GA:  Well, yeah, I did that a few years back and so this one, like we say, we’re running it up the flag pole and everybody’s saluting it, so…

Smitty:  Oh man, I can see why everybody’s saluting it because just think about that.  Man, you know, putting this kind of music together.  I love the concept because normally the record comes first and then the tour, but you guys are doing something really cool in that you’re getting the live setting first and then who knows?  The record comes afterwards.  Man, what a beautiful memory of the great performances.  I think this is beautiful.

GA:  Well, you know, in some aspects, you know how the current state of the recording industry is in flux right now that it’s almost just so risky to go out there and do a record and it just is so hard to market it so….I mean, everything is in this transition with record stores and the lack of record stores and everything’s online, and we’re just gonna do a live thing and we’ll see what happens and we’ll see if a recording is gonna come from it, and this reverse strategy is almost a really cool concept because I think if you really fine tune the whole concept and then when you do go into the studio, you really know what’s happening.

Smitty:  Right.

GA:  And you’re just like a well oiled machine and perhaps we might even do a live record, you know, so who knows?

Smitty:  Nice!

GA:  We just know that everybody who’s involved in this project is really, really diggin’ it and so we’re just looking forward to the future.  I think the smooth jazz format and genre is kinda starting to skew a little bit more toward R&B and, you know, I get mentioned so many times in people’s bios about Tower of Power and influence on their playing and we’ve had so many great players come through Tower of Power that are big stars in the smooth jazz format these days that and I started out playing with it, I arranged it, it’s a no brainer, let’s do it. So we’re going.

Smitty:  And I must say, we miss those days, man, and coming with this new concept and new arrangement is gonna be killer.

GA:  Yeah, it’s gonna be a great show so we’re looking forward to it.

Smitty:  So tell me, when you approached Tom Scott, what was his reaction?

GA:  I really like his attitude.  He said “Hell, Greg, I’m on board.”

Smitty:  (Laughs)

GA:  “Greg let’s do this.”  The only time—Tom and I work together all the time here in L.A. in the studios and Eric too and Lee Thornburg, who was with the original Tower of Power for about ten years in the 80s to the 90s, and so we’ve played together like, you know, together all the time, we’re in the studio.  So Lenny’s an old friend.  We always got together, got along well together when he was in Tower and then we’re both Aquarians, and Lenny’s been very successful in the last few years in his songwriting, he’s gotten a BMI writer’s award and Kanye West jammed to one of his songs on his hit singles, and he’s got some great songs.  I mean, it’s just gonna be a great, great hot show.  I’m really looking forward to getting together and really working on the show.


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