Trombone Player Clifford Adams
Clifford Adams has played with many of the jazz greats, names that resound throughout history and remain vibrant in the present by their influence on modern music forms. Born October 8, 1952 in Trenton NJ, Clifford showed a strong appreciation for classical Jazz in his preteen years. As his voice showed promise in the choir at the age of 12, it was in junior high school that Clifford experienced a life altering revelation when he was introduced to the trombone. The music he was most exposed to was that of the masters of classical Jazz. Clifford’s mother, Ms. Evelyn B. Adams, always had an intellectual and heartfelt appreciation for this music. The genre seemed to manifest itself through notes coming out of young Clifford’s trombone. Tommy Gryce, GiGi Gryce’s younger brother and reedman, guided Clifford’s talent and determination. As the trombone fused itself with Clifford’s spirit, it became a true voice of self-expression for a gifted and budding young musician.
In 1968, Clifford got his professional start in Trenton, in the horn section of a band called the VSQs. He, Michael Ray, and Jimmy Stackhouse comprised that horn section. By the age of 17, Clifford was playing on the road with Patti Labelle and the Bluebells. After spending the summer on the road, he returned home to further his education in music theory at Trenton State College. He sat in at the Fantasy Lounge, a Trenton Jazz club where young musicians were groomed, and played for matinee audiences. Clifford played there with Sonny Stitt, James Moody, George Benson, Shirley Scott, Gene Ammons, Don Patterson, and Charles Earland, who took young Adams out on the road.
While playing at Harlem’s famed jazz spot, The Club Barron, Clifford met many jazz greats such as Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and many more. Clifford met, and most times even played with, almost all of his heroes. He left an indelible impression on many of them. The following artists are just some of the strong musical influences in young Clifford’s life: Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Curtis Fuller, Slide Hampton, Julian Priester, Grachan Moncur III, Wayne Henderson, Fred Wesley, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Ron Carter, Thad Jones, Count Basie, Al Grey, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Fortune, Abdullah Ibrahim, Lou Donaldson, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
In 1973, Cliff Adams, Mike Ray, and Larry Gittens were the horn section for The Stylistics world tour. Clifford went on a two-year stint with the world famous Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Big Band. After playing with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, then headed by the Duke’s son Mercer Ellington, he did a European tour with Max Roach, and then formally joined Kool & the Gang.
Generations of people are familiar with the Clifford Adams trombone solos on “Joanna” from Kool & the Gang, “Someday We’ll All Be Free/Save the Children” from Regina Belle, and the much celebrated “Slam Dunk” released in the spring of 1996 by Kool & the Gang Featuring Clifford Adams on the “NBA at 50″ multi-platinum selling album. The following year, Clifford released his debut solo project; a classical Jazz CD entitled “The Master Power,” which did very well throughout Europe, home to an enormous Adams’ fan base. His next CD, “I Feel Your Spirit,” represents the first forum where Clifford truly expresses his multi-faceted nature. Here fans can delight in Clifford’s million selling pop side featured in Stylistics and Kool & the Gang hits, but also showcase his classical jazz roots through the same notes. More importantly to the fans, it is the first smooth jazz album ever to feature a lead trombone. The songs chosen allow looseness and tightness, humility and confidence, a serious groove and free form, to work in harmony for the listeners’ pleasure.
Some copy used in this section has been reprinted with permission from the liner notes to the I Feel Your Spirit CD featuring Kool & the Gang, Omar Hakim and Wah-Wah Watson; other copy has been edited for the medium by J. K. Langkans.