By Patte Purcell
I love doing my column every week keeping jazz alive in the desert and introducing you to some great musicians. Today I am writing my column about one of my musical heroes: Greg Adams, who is the founder, composer and arranger for his band East Bay Soul. For those who don’t know who Greg is let’s start at the beginning of his career. Greg comes from a musical family. He learned to play the trumpet at the tender age of 5, but it took a few years before he could blow it properly. In high school he had a great jazz band teacher who allowed him to arrange the music for the band. His inspirations were the greats like Sinatra and the big band sound.
His first gig at 18 years old, right out of high school, was…wait for it… TOWER OF POWER, where he composed and arranged most of their music for the next 25 years. As a huge Tower of Power fan I first saw them when I was 21 with my sister Pam, in Omaha. The entire audience jumped on their chairs and grooved for the entire show. I loved the brass section and the hip music they boogied across the stage with. I had no idea at that time that I would one day be interviewing and actually hiring Greg and his band East Bay Soul to perform for me at an event.
A few years ago I was at Spaghettini to interview Michael Paulo who was performing with East Bay Soul that night. I didn’t know East Bay Soul, but once I saw them I was hooked. And I’ve done my best to go to see them perform whenever they were in the area.
Greg’s diversity has made him the consummate performer and his arranging background is extensive. He has arranged, performed, and recorded with countless artists as diverse as his career, including: Elton John, Santana, The Eurythmics, Rod Stewart, Lyle Lovett, Heart, Linda Ronstadt, Luther Vandross, Aaron Neville, The Brothers Johnson, Phish, Little Feat, Wilson Pickett, Huey Lewis and the News, Al Green, Quincy Jones, BB King, Chicago, Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Peter Frampton, Mariah Carey, Billy Preston, Brothers Johnson, Chameleon, Josh Groban, Madonna, Celine Dion and even played live at Candlestick Park with The Rolling Stones.
One of Greg’s favorite accomplishments is writing the soundtrack for the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band produced by famed Beatles producer George Martin.
Greg has played on over 500 recordings. You’ve heard Greg’s collaboration with Paul Shaffer on the opening theme of the Late Show with David Letterman and on scores from Top Gun, to Austin Powers in Goldmember with Smashmouth.
In 1995, after 25 years, Greg decided to resign from Tower of Power so he could do his own thing.
He immediately got an offer from Epic Records and recorded the cover “Smooth Operator” which launched his smooth jazz career. His first hit was #1 for 5 weeks.
He had met the love of his life, now his wife and band manager Andrea Adams, and he says he couldn’t do it without her. She handles all the details and marketing and keeps things flowing.
Greg has done 8 CDs on his own and now records his own CDs, produces, funds and sells them. It’s a different world out there but he commented he does his own books instead of someone else doing them for him. He’s used Kickstarter crowd funding to fund production of CDs, which can be harrowing since you don’t get any money if you don’t reach your goal.
Greg started the band East Bay Soul about 4 years ago. The first CD contained 4 different vocalists. Then a search was on for that one vocalist that would fit the bill. As Greg and Andrea went through the list of singers from A to Z, Greg was ready to give up. He said they were all a bunch of Lynyrd Skynyrd types and then they got to the W’s and when they heard Darryl Fitzgerald Walker, they looked at each other and said ‘Who is this guy?’ Not only can Darryl sing but he’s an amazing sax player as well. He got the gig. Greg surrounded himself with some of the best in the business including his pal Lee Thornburg from Tower of Power, Joey Navarro on keys, Greg Vail on sax, and Johnnie Bamont on alto sax. Band members include Herman Matthews on drums, Dwayne ‘Smitty’ Smith on bass, Ka-Ta Matsuno on guitar and Johnny Sandoval on percussion. It’s one smoking band!
He just released their third CD, That’s Life, which is a take on the Sinatra “That’s Life” song with a distinctive Greg Adams twist. Greg is excited because this is the first one in 8 CDs to have a real string section on it. The opening track “Little Black Dress” is sure to be a chart topper. The orchestration and a new set of ears to mix it assure that this CD will be full of hits as well.
I’m proud to announce that Greg Adams and East Bay Soul will be headlining ‘SUMMER JAZZFEST’ on July 27th, from 5-10pm, at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club in Palm Springs. VIP reserved seat tickets are $50 each and gives you access to the VIP Lounge. General Admission is $30. ($10 more for both tickets at the door). To get your tickets call me at 1-702-219-6777. Sponsored by CV Weekly this event will have 3 bands and 5 national artists.