Entertaining a few out-of-town guests several weekends ago, I stopped in at Ortlieb’s, a bastion of straight-ahead jazz, Philly style. To my friends’ satisfaction, the stage was crowded with local heroes: drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Mike Boone and pianist Sid Simmons. What I hadn’t expected was the tasteful technician on trombone, wailing on Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven.” This was Clifford Adams, ‘bonist-composer-vocalist and alumnus of Kool and the Gang. The Master Power, Adams’ long overdue solo debut, places the trombonist in the presence of distinguished company—reedman Antonio Hart, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Lewis Nash and percussionist Neil Clark. Adams is a quite capable composer; the disc opens with the bright, Jazz Messenger-flavored “Darshan’s Love,” and ends with the distinctly modal, uptempo title track. “Graceful Feeling” is an aptly titled waltz, while “The Lord is Always With Them” probes African polyrhythms. Adams has obviously studied his J.J. Johnson, but there are also shades of Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Knepper, and even Fred Wesley. Like his accomplished sidemen, Adams brandishes his virtuosity only when appropriate—the mark of a dedicated stylist. With any luck, The Master Power will bring Adams the recognition he so rightly deserves.
– Nate Chinen