Notwithstanding the album title itself, which is likely just a tongue-in-cheek reference to the opposite, this is an album that attests to NRBQ’s leader and keyboardist Terry Adam’s jazz chops. NRBQ albums have covered Monk, Sun Ra, and other jazz artists but excepting the full album for Monk, usually in the context of other eclectic material. This reissued (with four bonus tracks) 1995 album contains all Adams’ originals with living legends and legendary jazz musicians alike. They are the late trombonists Roswell Rudd (Archie Shepp, Carla Bley) and Tyrone Hill (Sun Ra Arkestra), now 99-year-old still leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Marshall Allen on alto saxophone and flute, and Allen bandmates- trumpeter Dave Gordon and altoist/flutist Knoel Scott. If that’s not enough there are appearances from multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke, harmonicists John Sebastian and Jimmy Gordon, the rhythm tandem of bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Bobby Previte and NRBQ mates Johnny and Joey Spampinato and Tom Ardolino. The album is now available in all formats and for the first time as a 2-LP set.
These all-original jazz tunes span straight-ahead, forward-thinking, mostly improvisational, and bizarrely whimsical. No two tracks, excepting the two solo tracks that Adams renders on dulcitone, have the same instrumentation. Opener “Toodlehead” has a robust bass line from Cohen and swinging turns from the front line of Hoke on a clarinet-like soprano and Rudd’s ever-inventive trombone. Adams plays Japanese organ in addition to piano while NRBQ’s then drummer, the late Ardolino holds it together. “Venusian Sunset” (originally “le Sony r”) is one of several featuring Allen’s tart, shrieking alto (tame compared to what it sounds like these days), along with Hill and Gordon paired with the NRBQ lineup of the Spampinatos and Ardolino in a somewhat angular processional motif that thrives on off kilter beats. This lineup sans Allen appears again on Adams’ pensive blues tune “I Feel Lucky” with Gordon and Hill providing haunting, intense unison brass that reflects the earlier piano-guitar unison lines. Allen steps back in with his signature blowing on the swinging “Out the Windo.” The two harmonicists Sebastian and Gordon augment this lineup for “These Blues,” Adams lone vocal track with its whimsical lyrics and funky beat. “Thinking of You” is a ballad without the Spampinatos but with Cohen on bass and three horn front line of Allen, Gordon, and Hill as the latter two especially shine in their solos.
The standout “Say When” has a Mingus-like edge as a brisk, polyrhythmic swinger with Allen on flute and the twin altos of Hoke and Scott, who takes an inspiring flight. Donn Adams joins Hill for a twin trombone attack as Adams comps mightily to the support of bassist Pete Tiogo and drummer Previte. An alternate take of this track is one of the four bonus tracks. Another clear highlight” is the flowing, eastern hued “Little One,” displaying the sonic diversity here as Adams plays harmonica amidst three flutes, two muted trombones, and two basses. Gordon, Tiogo, Cohen, and Previte all contribute as well.
The other pieces are either solo (“Distant Instant” and bonus “Kalimba” or with smaller units. Adams updates the NRBQ piece “Yes, Yes, Yes” in a piano trio with Cohen and Previte and has Rudd join to form a quartet for “Hilda” in a tour-de-force solo that’s so indicative of his unique talent on the horn (not to be missed). The remaining unmentioned bonus tracks are the stomping piano-alto duet with Allen, “Wrong Gasket,” previously issued on Adams’ 2005 Ten By Ten (Edisun) and the ethereal “Thedy” featuring Adams on DX 7 joined by Hoke on a most lyrical harmonica and the bass-drum tandem of Spampinato and Ardolino offer subtle, sturdy support.
This 30-year-old album is more than overdue for another airing, and it set the stage for many Adams’ solo projects that followed. Yet, it remains distinctly special given the outstanding personnel.
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