Hip spoken word master Tony Adamo has received much praise for his work, and rightly so.
Devon Jackson of Entertainment Weekly noted, “Tony Adamo … seems to have become the undisputed heavyweight historian and champion of all things jazzy and funky.” And from Scott Yanow, author of The Jazz Singers: ”It quickly becomes apparent that in the gray area between jazz, R&B and soul, Tony Adamo is one of the top voices.”
When I first heard Tony’s 2013 album Miles of Blu it reminded me (as it did a few others) of Jack Kerouac, when the Beat writer was using jazz as a backdrop for his spoken word/poetry performances. But no matter what it may remind you of at first, in the end it’s going to be something different.
There are quite a few veteran musicians along on the ride with Tony, including drummer/producer Mike Clark, (Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters); Steve Homan, guitar (Herb Ellis, Jimmy Smith, Joe Williams); Rob Dixon, sax (Count Basie Orchestra, Ellington Band, Slide Hampton); and Delbert Bump, organ (Lee Konitz, Lou Rawls, Martha and the Vandellas).
In an interview conducted by Brent Black after the release of Miles of Blu. Tony Adamo painted a good picture of where he’s coming from so below is an excerpt.
Hip spoken word may be the most accurate description of your art. Tell us about the record and where you wanted to go. I sometimes use the term beatnik poetry as your words seem to embrace what’s happening today be it music, politics etc…
The thought and direction behind MILES OF BLU (MOB) took shape many years ago. I had no idea this would be a new genre of vocal/hipspokenword. Many of the lyrics I wrote from MOB were made up in studio as I was recording. My free form hipspokenword flow turned out to be better than the lyrics I had originally written. Dig this Brent, Mike Clark to this day has no idea that I started in music as drummer. While playing drums, congas, or other percussion instruments in various bands I belonged to, I would hear words in between the licks I was putting down. I was not hearing singing, but whole sentences of spoken words between my drumming notes. I never knew what beatnik poetry was until my early twenties. When I tried to dig Kerouac and all the heavy beat hipsters, their beatnik poetry was not jiving in my head. I had to come up with my own voice without being influenced by the great beat poets, Kerouac, Ginsburg and LaMantia. I stayed away from listening to Mark Murphy’s spoken word and Gil Scott Heron’s political sayings. About the only cat I really dug was not a musician at all. Lenny Bruce’s comic delivery set me on my path. His timing and endless free thinking riff delivery on the spot inspired me.
An example from MILES OF BLUE would be “The Power of Funky Madness.” Mike and his crew laid down the music tracks for “Funky Madness” without my vocal hipspokenword. That track collected dust for six months. Mike finally ended up adding horns and guitar in studio. Mike asked me if I had any lyrics yet. I said something like “Bro I have it covered” and told him to let the music roll. What you hear is a free form riff that came to me in the moment. I was being vibed across my creative mind by Mike’s drumming. The Texas Shuffle he was laying down was my guide for the hip words that flowed from me. The recording of my vocal hipspoken word on “The Power of Funky Madness” was done in one take. I have no idea where the words came from. When I finished recording I had to listen to the playback in order to write down the words because I could not remember what I said. Oh yeah baby!
Hip spoken word can trigger some preconceived ideas for a lot of people. If you can shatter any of these stereotypes what are they?
First off, my vocal/hipspokenword in not purely spokenword. I intertwine vocal and hipspokenword into a new genre. My vocal/hipspokenword is more accessible to radio than just coming out with a CD of spokenword backed by a jazz trio. It encompasses jazz, funk, pop, acid jazz and adult listening all laced together by vocal/hipspokenword and the stellar musicians that Mike Clark put together for MOB. When the listening public and music directors and program directors hear spokenword they tend to stay away from it because it can sometimes be an uninteresting and mundane delivery from spoken word artists. In MILES OF BLU I captivate my audience by being a storyteller of jazz history, politics and life in general. My hope is to have the new generation of listeners get hip to our rich jazz history.