April 18, 2010

Greg Adams & East Bay Soul At Anthology

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Despite the rapidly emerging status of Anthology as San Diego’s preeminent music hotspot it is debatable if this upscale venue has ever staged a performance of such consummate quality and immense power as that served up on April 15, 2010 by Greg Adams and his brand new ensemble project East Bay Soul. This mega funky collective is the brainchild of the Grammy and Emmy nominated trumpeter Adams who just happens to be a founding member of the wonderful Tower of Power. At Anthology, as on the album, he was joined by another ex Tower of Power stalwart, trumpeter Lee Thornburg and the East Bay Soul roster was completed by Joey Navarro on keyboards, Evan Stone on drums, Brian Allen on bass, James Wirrick on guitar, Johnny Sandoval on percussion plus Michael Paulo and Greg Vail on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. Suffice to say that the combination was nothing short of sensational throughout.

Ostensibly in town to showcase the excellent new release East Bay Soul, Adams also created space on the set list for several other songs from his illustrious discography. One was a stunning rendition of his seminal hit ‘Burma Road’ from the 1995 CD Hidden Agenda and another was ‘One Night In Rio’ from the more recent Cool To The Touch. It found huge favor with the enthusiastic crowd and Adams slick arrangement allowed the bands rhythm section to really shine.

The show opened with the brass drenched ‘Survival Of The Hippest’ which laid down a clear marker as to the energy that Adams intended to pack into every tune. Although ‘Bop Drop’ offered a jazzy diversion it also built a bridge to ‘Reading Lips’ where the silkily soulful vocals of Darryl Walker provided the velvet glove into which the bands iron fist easily slid. The shimmering ‘Someone New’ (where Adams playing on flugelhorn was spectacular) and the equally impressive ‘iHope’ also found Walker in fine vocal form and he returned to add a little soul to the zesty ‘Awaken’ which incidentally is a number co-written by Adams and the up and coming Alan Hewitt.

‘Always Takes Two’ was delivered with all the horn driven frenzy that one would expect from a line-up with its roots firmly grounded in the uniquely soul based genre of San Francisco’s East Bay area and this was reinforced by the bands sizzling version of the Jerry Ragovoy composition ‘Stop’ which, as well as being outrageously ‘off the chain’, also featured luscious horns and immensely soulful vocals from Lee Thornburg.

Paradoxically the band appeared just as effective with the tempo notched down and this was ably demonstrated by the jazzily smoky ‘What’s It Gonna Be’ where Adams trademark muted trumpet was terrific. He used this same technique to engender a massively chilled out vibe for a tremendous cover of the classic ‘Ghetto’ and amongst ever rising excitement from the audience the band were applauded back to the stage for a much deserved double encore. For this they first went back to Adams 2002 project Midnight Morning for a blockbuster take on ‘Sup With That’ then closed out the ninety plus minute set by coming right up top date for the soulful swagger of ‘Jump, Shout And Holler’ from the new album.

Quite simply this was an incredible show from a group of musicians who generate the sort of tight horn filled rhythms that are both entirely timeless and totally to die for. East Bay Soul will next be in Southern California on May 1 when they are sure to make a significant impact on the Temecula Wine & Music Festival. Miss them at your peril.

For more information go to www.eastbaysoul.com

Posted by Denis Poole at April 18, 2010 6:32 PM