Monday, February 28, 2011

Tony Adamo reviewed by Scott Yanow

Artist: Tony Adamo
CD Title: What is Hip?
Record Label: Strokeland Records
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Tony Adamo
Tony Adamo has a warm deep voice, has a style containing equal parts soul and swing, and he performs music that is difficult to categorize. His music is both funky and bluesy yet it has the unpredictability of jazz along with grooves from the more creative side of vintage r&b.
But then again, how does one describe Les McCann’s singing? Adamo explores some of the same areas at times, particularly on the opener “Cold Duck Time.” During what is probably the first vocal version ever of the song made famous by McCann and Eddie Harris at the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival, Adamo contributes words that change the song into “Groove On Line” while retaining the same joyful groove of the original.

Tony Adamo is joined by several overlapping groups throughout this disc and there is fine playing by guitarist Jerry Stucker, Neil Larsen on organ and piano, tenor-saxophonist Melicio Magdaluyo and a few members of Tower of Power. Much of the time Adamo functions as a lead instrument, being part of the band rather than a stand-alone vocalist. There are times when he recalls Ben Sidran, a hipper Michael Franks and even Mark Murphy, but in general he simply sounds like himself.

In addition to the lyrics of “Cold Duck Time,” Tony Adamo co-wrote six of the songs with Stucker. Along with his originals (“Love Don’t Get” is particularly catchy), the repertoire includes such intriguing numbers as Grover Washington Jr.’s “Make Me A Memory,” “What Is Hip,” “Eleanor Rigby” and “Rio de Janeiro Blue.”

The interaction between the singer and the horn section is frequently infectious, the quality of the music is consistently high, and it always grooves. It quickly becomes apparent that in the gray area between jazz, r&b and soul, Tony Adamo is one of the top voices. What Is Hip? is easily recommended.

Scott Yanow, author of The Jazz Singers, Trumpet Kings, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76

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