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

Norm Crosby, my mom, more music, and malapropism

Norm Crosby

Elvis

This morning, I noticed a promo for comedian, Norm Crosby. I’d last seen him a year ago or two ago, on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Norm’s ‘act’ always has been the mastery of the malaprop.

“A malapropism is an act of misusing or the habitual misuse of similar sounding words, especially with humorous results. An example is Yogi Berra’s statement: “Texas has a lot of electrical votes,” rather than “electoral votes”.”

Source: Wikipedia

My mother was prone to the occasional malaprop, like this one.

“You’ve got to go to New Orleans, before they all die.”

Source: Koutsie Ebon

The complete thought was regarding our love of jazz, and again population of jazz musicians (from her era) in New Orleans. Well, I finally got to New Orleans in the late 90′s, and I thought of her, often, during that trip.

Careers are strange things. The half-life of a typical NFL player is about five years. Baseball is much longer. Musicians and writers are often people who never choose to retire.

A Missed Opportunity

During the summer of 1973, I took class at UNLV (University of Nevada, Las Vegas). That’s a longer story, but the relevant element to this post is enjoyment of music. Elvis Presley was headlining at The International (which became The Las Vegas Hilton, and just recently LVH – Las Vegas Hotel). In the big lounge was Wilson Pickett.

Being the soul music lover I am, I chose to see Wilson Pickett and never made it to an Elvis show. A few years later, Elvis passed away. He was right there… almost all summer. I just didn’t make it a priority. And then he was gone.

Immediately after that wake-up call, I started going on a concert tear. Before ‘bucket list’ was a pop-culture term, I was seeing performers at a pretty brisk pace. Living in San Francisco made that easy.

Sammy Davis Jr. and Count Basie in Lake Tahoe (on the same bill). Sinatra at the Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, CA. The Circle Star, and its rotating stage was host to many major acts that came through the San Francisco Bay Area. A few performers that I saw there include: Tower of Power, Ray Charles, Buster Poindexter, Average White Band.

Venetian Room at the Fairmont

Venetian Room at the Fairmont

One of my favorite venues was the Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. Until the late 1990′s, it was a showroom, usually two shows nightly. The early show was a dinner show. Some of the performers I saw there included: Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny Rankin, James Brown (featuring Maceo Parker), Blood Sweat & Tears, Toni Tennille, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme & George Shearing, Dr. John, and the list goes on.

I saw The Rat Pack Revival – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, & Sammy Davis Jr. at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. That was the first show on their tour. Subsequently, Dean Martin was replaced by Liza Minnelli. I’m sure people enjoyed Liza, but I felt privileged to see the original three.

At the height of her success, I saw Janet Jackson, also at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. Saw George Burns and Bill Cosby in Tahoe. Paul McCartney at the Memorial Coliseum, Berkeley. George Benson, Seawind, Lyle Lovett & Ricki Lee Jones at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.

Those, and many more make up my concert memories. And, in spite of all that, I’ve still missed a few. Isaac Hayes comes to mind. His live 2-CD set, Live at the Sahara Tahoe is one of my favorites. I’ve still not seen Aretha Franklin. Never saw the Jacksons or Michael Jackson.

Many of these musical moments are burned in my memory. I can still visualize segments of performances, as though I were right there, at that time.

The clear morale, for me, is:

There isn’t always ‘next year’ or ‘next time’.

Whatever one loves to do… go to concert, visit museums, walk in the park, go to sports events, travel the country or the world, go do it. If you live in a small market, events are fewer, and one tends to make a point of attending. Sometimes, in larger metro area, the choices are everywhere, and one takes them for granted.

Clearly, I have reached the point where I take nothing for granted. I have a lifetime of memories and plan on enjoying a lot more. And, in writing this post, a flood of memories return. And now, I’m dug into the entertainment section to see what’s coming to town.

What have you missed? What have you always wanted to do, and never done? What state or country have you wanted to visit, but not travled there, yet?

Our lives should be chock full of experiences. We never get to all of them. But we shouldn’t stop trying.

Don’t you think?

Andy Ebon
First-Generation New Yorker