Greg Adams – The challenge and accomplishment of going-it-alone – Part 1

Original Tower of Power horns with Bruce Steinberg

Original Tower of Power horn section with Bruce Steinberg – Front Row: Greg Adams, Mic Gillette. Back Row: Doc Kupka, Skip Mesquite, Bruce Steinberg, Emilio Castillo

Greg Adams was a member of Oakland-based soul band, Tower of Power, for 25 years. He stood far left of Tower’s 5-piece horn section, playing trumpet and flügelhorn.

He played, and still plays, beautifully. His rarer skill, is as an arranger. Tower of Power‘s distinct sound is an amalgam of great songwriting (mostly by Emilio Castillo and Doc Kupka), a rhythm section second to none, a horn section percolating with piercing energy, and a string of lead singers, each with a distinct style.

Over the band’s first 25 years, few would argue, as much as any other part, Greg Adams horn arrangements set them apart.

Under Greg’s leadership, as arranger, Tower’s brand-name horn section was hired to augment the studio recordings of countless artists. When you hired the Tower of Power horn section for your project, you specifically hired Greg Adams as the arranger. You did that because of what he could hear (internally), how could project the skills and talent of the horn section, and how the arrangement would blend with the sound of your artist.

Greg Adams (photograph by Bettie Grace Miner - http://www.minerworksofart.com/ )

“Greg’s musical compositions made the TOP horn section a sought out entity all it’s own. Beginning early with his arrangement on Santana’s “ Everything Is Everything”, Elton John’s “The Bitch Is  Back” and Chaka Kahn’s “ Fool’s Paradise”.

Greg has arranged, performed and recorded with countless artists as diverse as his career, including: The Eurythmics, Rod Stewart, Heart, Lyle Lovett, Linda Ronstadt, Luther Vandross, Aaron Neville, Quincy Jones, Little Feat, Wilson Pickett, Huey Lewis and the News, Raphael Saadiq, The Brothers Johnson, Phish, B.B.King, Everclear, Chicago, Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Peter Frampton, Billy Preston, Terrence Trent Darby, Josh Groban, Madonna, The Rolling Stones and Celine Dion.”

“Greg has earned both GRAMMY® and Emmy nominations and an International Broadcasting Award from The Hollywood Radio and Television Society. In sync with an ever evolving musical landscape and a life’s work that has included success as an arranger, composer, producer and performer, taking him on worldwide tours and contributing to some of the most important recordings in pop culture.”

Source: GregAdamsMusic.com

Sometime after Tower of Power‘s 1993 album T.O.P., Greg Adams decided he was ready for the next phase of his music career,  after a quarter-of-a-century as a key contributor to the band. Just-like-that, he moved forward to pursue a solo career.

Andy Ebon
First-Generation New Yorker

Rudy Guess: Sharing Light With All Around Him

Rudy Guess: In a familiar pose

Rudy Guess: In a familiar pose

One year ago, on New Year’s Eve, many people lost a great friend and influence, Michael “Rudy” Guess. Rudy had achieved great career success as guitarist, recording engineer, composer and producer. That was particularly true in the last 20+ years of his life, when he became a key collaborator with legendary composer Carole King.

I met Rudy when we were in our early 20’s. I Poppeye, a band that toured the Southwest and California, with periodic stops in Tucson, AZ.

Mike Clifford, one of the band’s key figures, had introduced me to his old high school friend. Though already an accomplished guitarist, Rudy first caught on with Poppeye as a sound engineer. Then, as a featured performer, composer,  band member.

The band moved its home base to Southern California, changed its name to The Team, and Rudy became a central member. It was in these early years that Rudy met two of his life’s most important people: Bandmate, Teddy Andreadis and future wife, Lorna.

I had last seen the team perform, in the late 80’s. It was in that period that Rudy had built an incredible recording studio, for his own work, and recording demos with songwriters. One of these composers was Carole King.

Over time, Rudy would become far more than an engineer for Carole’s demos. He would become a co-producer and core member of her band.

As she would describe it (paraphrasing),

“Everything went better when Rudy was involved. In the studio, he find a way to make a suggestion to improve to recording, in the most subtle of ways. On stage, his energy was effusive and energetic. He radiated pure joy.”

~ Carole King

The Living Room Tour: Carole King - Gary Burr - Rudy Guess

The Living Room Tour: Carole King – Gary Burr – Rudy Guess

We reconnected, in person, in 2005, during The Living Room Tour at the Caesar’s Colosseum Theater, the 4167-seat showroom, built for Celine Dion. One of the great dynamics of working with Carole, was that his wife, Lorna, was also in the fold. She worked as Carole’s Manager and Event Producer.

Rudy had arranged for my girlfriend, Jessica, and I to come backstage after the show. Seeing him at the apex of his career, getting reacquainted with Lorna, and introducing them both to Jessica, was quite a thrill.

We stayed in closer touch, and then it seemed like he disappeared. In 2010, Carole was doing a tour with her old friend, James Taylor, and Rudy was strangely missing from the tour. There were a few cryptic posts on his Facebook page that signaled things were not good. I decided to email our old friend Mike Clifford and see what he knew.

Lorna & Rudy Guess

Lorna & Rudy Guess

I followed up with Rudy, by email, to confirm what I already knew. He was suffering from a very aggressive, rare form of cancer. He was just not well enough to tour. He spoke of coming to Las Vegas to see the Beatles-Cirque show, Love, and, happily, Lorna and Rudy made that musical pilgrimage.

The memorial for Rudy’s life was held on a beautiful day in April, 2011. I don’t do well at funerals, generally, but this was truly a celebration of his life. Kind words, great memories, and music. Lots of music. It was 10% sadness, and 90% inspiration and celebration.

Teddy Andreadis with Best Man & Best Friend, Rudy Guess

Teddy Andreadis with Best Man & Best Friend, Rudy Guess

An after party at the Guess home was the central time to friends and family to share stories, renew friendships, and jam… You could hear and feel it from blocks away.

As I made the drive back to Las Vegas, several thoughts cycled through my head. Though his life was full, his time had been suddenly cut short by a dreaded disease. Lorna and their beloved dogs would no longer have Rudy as part of their world.

I was inspired by the universal joy of ‘knowing Rudy’. While I’m certain he had a bad moment here or there, you would never know it. To a one, stories told had a singular theme. Rudy’s genuine positivity in all situations, and how that rubbed off on the people around him.

Rudy was authentic in his uptempo disposition. The effusive tributes confirmed that, again and again.

I am fortunate to still have the gift of life. Rudy’s gift to others, whether he realized it or not, was sharing a light of life. An outlook that warmed everyone he met. It is a rare quality… and one I’m going to work on improving, personally.

This blog is my first step in that direction.

Rudy’s music on CD Baby

Andy Ebon

Share a little sunshine with others, and it will reflect on you.