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All About Jazz Reviews Tony Adamo's Was Out Jazz Zone Mad

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All About Jazz reviewed Was Out Jazz Zone Mad twice!

By CHRIS M. SLAWECKI
January 9, 2019

Some African cultures preserved their history not by the written but by the spoken word, kept by oral cultural historians known as griots. On Was Out Jazz Zone Mad, vocalist Tony Adamo aspires to serve in this same role, as a verbal historian of both official and unofficial African- American jazz and blues culture. This type of jazz jive might wear quickly thin but Adamo writes about jazz and jazz musicians with such detailed intimacy and vision that his words snap, crackle and pop. More often than not, the heart, mind, and soul of Was Out Jazz Zone Mad prove genuine.

It helps immeasurably that Adamo regales such tales in the company of musicians expert in organ-guitar combo, small-club, greasy instrumental funk, led by drummer Mike Clark of (Herbie Hancock and) the Headhunters and featuring drummer Lenny White, organist Mike LeDonne, percussionist Bill Summers, guitarists Elias Lucero and Jack Wilkins, and saxophonist Donald Harrison. Their grooves are low-down and for real funky in the best possible way.

Thus inspired, Adamo's lyrical material is often magisterial. His description of saxophonist Joe “Sonic Henderson" cuts as sharp and bright and quick as lightning, and crosses from writing about jazz into writing that IS jazz: “Always diggin' into the hot-cool vocabulary of jazz to come up with notes that aren't always obvious but always fit...floating, thought-provoking sounds that were at times hard liquor jazz mixed with mad sex music..." All the while, this set's core trio—drummer Clark, LeDonne on organ, and guitarist Wilkins—twist up the accompaniment in thick rhythmic knots, with Wilkins playing Melvin Sparks to LeDonne's Charles Earland in their respective solos.

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By NICHOLAS F. MONDELLO
January 27, 2019

The translation of “Adam" from Hebrew—from which the surname Adamo springs—means from the “ground" or “soil." It also derives from the Hebrew word for red, a la “red clay." Perhaps that is why any work from Tony Adamo is rare earth—gritty, and flaming crimson. Was Out Jazz Zone Mad Adamo's latest, his first for Ropeadope, is all of those things and more.

Adamo is the Heavyweight Champion of “hipspokenword," wherein lingo meets vocalizing at the corner of jazz and funk. The opener, “Rain Man," is pure hard-funk with Adamo percolating over a fierce B3 groove laid down by Tower of Power's Roger Smith. It is arguably the strongest track on a session of many fine cuts. “Sonic Henderson" is a straight-ahead cooker with Adamo spewing forth brilliant lyrics about the legendary saxman. “B.B. King's Blues" offers a down-home ass-shaking shuffle with Adamo story-telling over the solid ensemble behind him.

Adamo is a marvelously versatile and engaging talent. His originals here all shine with hip-sassed lyrics delivered with pungency and flair. No wallflower, he's an in-your-face artist, a storyteller in the best oral jazz tradition. His inflections are infectious and his approach to time and lyric are those of a mad wizard genius. He is one of a kind.

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