Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Tony Adamo knows and reveres the history of jazz, blues, soul and funk. The long time Bay Area artist also knows about the beat poets such as Ginsburg and Kerouac and is familiar with Black Arts poets such as The Last Poets and Gil-Scot Heron. Both the beats and the Black Arts poets fused spoken word with music – mainly jazz, although the Black Arts poets also used soul and funk music and served as a bridge to hip hop. Adamo’s latest project, Miles of Blu, employs music backed spoken word to honor some of his musical heroes while also giving listeners a musical history lesson and a little political commentary to boot. Miles of Blu is an ambitious but uneven project that is more notable for its virtues than for its misses. Anyone honoring Hammond B3 organ legends such as Jimmy Smith, Brother Jack McDuff and Joey DeFrancesco is doing a public service. That tune, “Funkin’ At the Chickin’ Shack,” is an homage to Smith’s 1960 album “Back at the Chicken Shack” – a soul jazz classic. The cut encapsulates Miles of Blu’s main asset: uniformly excellent musicianship. This is also one of the tunes where Adamo’s channeling of the beat poet cadences and imagery matches up well with the musical arrangement. Adamo runs into trouble when he seeks to reimagine songs such as James Brown’s “Ain’t That a Groove” as a spoken word number. There is logic to Adamo’s reasoning. Brown’s voice is so unique and his music so well known that going rogue had a certain appeal. However, Adamo has a distinctive singing voice. Altering the track’s tempo was an interesting tactic, but talking the lyrics takes away from the track’s pacing. Adamo repeats that mistake on the Tower of Power tunes “Soul Vaccination” and “What is Hip.” Adamo’s reworking of another TOP number, “Don’t Change Horses,” is far more pleasing partly because Adamo chooses to sing rather than speak the lyrics. Adamo finds his spoken word groove on the tracks “Jack Kerouac, Jack” and “Sun-Ra Rockets to Mars.” Spoken word works on the former because of the connection between Kerouac’s beat poetry and jazz while the arrangement on the latter captures Sun-Ra’s eccentric essence. Adamo is teacher and witness on Miles of Blu. He covers a great deal of musical, stylistic and historical territory, It’s clear that Adamo loves soul, jazz, funk and spoken word. And while some of his vocal choices on this wide ranging project don’t quite work, on other cuts he pays a worthy tribute to masters of the past. SOULTRACKS

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