Out on The Floor One More Time
" BluesWax Sittin' In With Arthur Adams
By Bob Putignano

Guitarist, singer, songwriter Arthur Adams has covered an awful lot of musical territories. In soul Adams has waxed with the Godfather of Soul, Larry Graham, Brenton Wood, and Martha Reeves. Rock credits include recording with Jerry Garcia, James Taylor, Merle Saunders, Paul Pena, and Simply Red. His jazz work is most impressive: Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody, The Crusaders, Quincy Jones, Phil Upchurch, Gene Ammons, Jimmy Smith, Al Jarreau, Ben Sidran, Hugh Masekela, Herb Alpert, David Axelrod, Joe Sample, Benny Carter, Nick DeCaro, Hampton Hawes, Nancy Wilson, and drummer Paul Humphrey. Arthur's a blues player, too. Lowell Fulson, Maria Muldaur, Nina Simone, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Piazza, Mitch Kashmar, and the great B.B. King have all put down sides with Adams.

It takes a special musician with diverse talents to have these abilities to shift from genre to genre and fit like a glove on each and every session date. Plus, since 1972, Arthur has also recorded seven of his own solo recordings and worked with big time producers Stewart Levine, and Tommy Li Puma. His latest release is Stomp the Floor on Delta Groove. He is extremely upbeat and a joy in conversation.

Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Hi, Arthur.

Arthur Adams: Thanks for catching up with me.

BW: Your new CD is wonderful. Tell me more about the tune "Callin' Heaven" which is beautiful.

AA: I love that song. It came from my heart. I was walking through Jesse Owens Park in LA, and that's where it came to me as I had called some friends who never called me back, hence the name "Callin' Heaven." So I just wrote it down and put it in my pocket, as I did not yet know how I was going to write it. Then on my way back home I saw a homeless man. Actually he was crying, too. He was really moaning, so I felt if I could just write about what he's feeling, and how I'm feeling, too, that's how "Callin' Heaven" came about.

BW: Well the emotion(s) you captured and portrayed grabbed me profoundly. I've been listening to you for something like thirty-five years, and you are not the kind of musician that fits easily in one box, so finding a home for you to release your music must be difficult.

AA: It is. When I left Jackson Tennessee, I could only play just a few chords, but I've always been blessed with a good ear and started playing with different bands in Texas and throughout the south. At that time I started listening to other guitar players and would implement and learn their guitar structures into my playing. I started playing a little be-bop, modern jazz, contemporary jazz, etc. So when I got to Los Angeles I did some studio session work where I learned a lot more complex playing and figured it out.

So I started playing jazz, pop, R & B, as originally I was just playing blues chords. I feel all of it! I love jazz, country, Blues, rock, gospel. I love it all. So with Stomp the Floor I said, "I am going to cover all the genres." People say, "Do what you feel," and that's just what I did on this record. So far the feedback has been great, too. So I'm glad that I did not put myself in a box.

BW: Did you meet the Crusaders in your southern days in Texas, or when you moved out west?

AA: I met the Crusaders here in LA in 1967. We were doing a Bonnie & Clyde soundtrack album that I believe had Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, and Faye Dunaway starring in it. So the trombone player came over to me and said, "Hey man, I sure like the way you play." That was Wayne Henderson, and he asked me for my phone number. Joe Sample was there, too, and that's how I met the Crusaders. So they called me. I got to meet Wilton Felder and Stix Hooper too, and we became friends. They recorded the song I wrote in my closet, "Love and Peace." Wayne Henderson really liked it. They waxed it on their Powerhouse LP, and it became a big hit for them, too.

BW: "Love and Peace" has had a lot of legs. Lots of people have recorded it. Rob Paparozzi just covered this year, too.

AA: Rob's a beautiful guy, man.

BW: Of course Quincy Jones covered it too on his classic Walking in Space.

AA: Yes in 1969 in New York City with Hubert Laws, Eric Gale, Bernard Purdie, all of those great musicians, and when I heard it, I couldn't believe it, my goodness!

BW: When Paparozzi sent me his take on "Love and Peace," we started talking, and he asked me if I knew the version covered by Quincy. I said, "Of course, but my favorite was from Phil Upchurch on his Darkness, Darkness Blue Thumb double LP. You played on the LP, right?

AA: It was great to be a part of that album, and I just found out that Ronnie Dyson recorded it to. I didn't know until Paparozzi told me. It blew me away because I always loved Ronnie Dyson.

BW: Go to Allmusic.com as there were an awful lot of covers listed for "Love and Peace."

AA: Wow, I got to check that out.

BW: Could be some unfound money for you there, too [laugh].

AA: I'm definitely looking that up. Thank you for telling me! This makes me feel really proud, and you know I did not spend a lot of time writing the tune, just a couple of hours is all it took. I was in my closet on 79th St. in Los Angeles, now it was a big closet, and I had my tape recorder in there with me, and that's where it happened. So I played it for the Crusaders, and Quincy, too, when we were doing the Bill Cosby show.

BW: You turned up on that record that was released a few years ago with Quincy & Cosby, The Original Jam Sessions 1969 on Concord that had an amazing cast of musicians: Jimmy Smith, Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Joe Sample, Milt Jackson and so many others. You are in the credits, but the track listing credits are not listed by each tune. There's one track that I thought for sure was Phil Upchurch playing guitar, and I emailed Upchurch an MP3 of it, and he told me, "It does sound like me, but there's no way in the world I would have assembled notes in the order that this guitarist did," but he dug it!

AA: That's too funny. In fact I just talked to Upchurch earlier this year, and he put me in touch with this movie gig that he couldn't make.

BW: But back to "Love and Peace," what an honor it must have been for you to have Quincy Jones record your music.

AA: Oh yes, he's a great guy, too, great arranger and producer, the whole nine yards.

BW: Well it's great to have you back with Stomp the Floor.

AA: I am really happy about this recording. We've been getting a lot of airplay, and some very positive reviews are starting to come in too from all over the world. We just got one from Australia, a beautiful review from the UK. Of course I'm looking forward to your review, too, Bob. Plus close friends tell me they love it, and it's nice when you don't have to ask them if they like, as they willingly offer their positive opinions of Stomp the Floor. This all makes me feel real good.

BW: Well, Arthur, considering your rich past, you deserve all of this, plus you keep such a youthful approach to your music as you have such positive vibe that flows through your music.

AA: That's exactly what I tried to do with this new disc. You know I had another song You Got the Floor from way back in the '80s. It was a disco record that did really well in Europe. As a matter of fact it went to number one over there. So I figured that if You Got the Floor worked, why can't I Stomp the Floor! [More laughs]. Plus we like it when we get people to get on out to the dance-floor and have a good time.

W: Speaking of stomping the floor, I saw you several years ago at Michael Cloeren's Pocono Blues Fest, and, man, you were killing! Plus I had never seen you perform. It started to rain, and I said, "Oh please, God, don't interrupt this performance."

AA: I remember that day so well. It started to pour, and I still walked out into the audience and thought something happened to my guitar as it was going out of tune.

BW: I was scared for you.

AA: The people there were so beautiful, though. They stood in the rain wanting me to sign CDs after the gig, too.

BW: Your set was great. In fact the crowd was wanting for more, but they keep a tight length of performance time there, and many of us were disappointed that we did not get a little more of Arthur Adams that day, even in the rain!

Arthur, you are such a rarity in music. You've been able to mix things up with soul, funk, Blues. There aren't many of you guys left that can do this so well.

AA: Bob, I've lucky to have been able to play with so many different artists: Nina Simone, the Crusaders, Jimmy Smith, Quincy, JB, B.B., and from Quincy I got to work with Sarah Vaughan. I was in awe with her! I also did some overdubs for the Jackson 5, a lot of Motown stuff, too. I also did some dubs from Kent records the B.B. recordings from that era, Lowell Fulson, and Gene Ammons, too. So I sort of went all the way around the mulberry bush, mainly because of my good ear. I even worked with the country singer Roger Miller. Quincy brought me in for that one, and I asked him, "Why you got me here?" Howard Roberts was there. too, Larry Carlton. A lot of them didn't know me, but they asked me to solo and requested that I play the Blues and burn! It was a thirty-something-piece orchestra, so it was from those kinds of situations that got me other work and kept me going.

BW: Back in the day when there was a strong recording scene where guys like you had a lot of opportunities to work.

AA: It was a special time. I never dreamed of doing stuff like that when I moved to LA.

BW: You also worked with Freddy Robinson, too.

AA: Yes, and I was very sorry to hear of his passing. The most memorable session I worked with Freddy on was with the Crusaders Old Socks, New Shoes.

BP: Tommy LiPuma reissued that about a year ago on Verve.

AA: Freddy and I had a great time recording on that, and that was the Crusaders' first real big hit, and from there they never looked back, especially after all the airplay they got on that Sly Stone cover, "Thank You For Lettin Me Be Myself Again," which was a smash.

BW: Producer Stewart Levine was so dead on with electrifying the Crusaders and adding guitarist(s) to the group as from that point forward they became incredibly popular.

AA: You are right about that, and Stewart's a beautiful man who taught me so much. He grew up in the streets of New York City and was one of the originators of the R & B/jazz sounds that became so popular back then. Levine was really well equipped, and he became my best friend.

BW: Do you still keep in touch with Stewart?

AA: Oh yeah, I talked him earlier this year, and his focus has shifted to doing movies now.

BW: The next time you speak with Levine, please tell him he has a welcome pass to come on my radio show anytime, as I have a lot of questions for him.

AA: I will. Stewart also taught me a lot about the music business. too.

BW: Before I let you go, a couple more questions. You worked with Jerry Garcia, right?

AA: I did, on his second recording Compliments, and I am so embarrassed to say, I had no idea who he was, nor anything about the Grateful Dead. It was a one day session, where I was flown into the Fantasy studios in Berkeley. We briefly spoke, but we did not have that much time to chat. It was a little thereafter that I found out how important he was and that he was a great player. Plus, during that Garcia session, I also meet Merle Saunders, and from that he asked me to record on his You Can Keep Your Hat On album, Merle was a good guy who was an excellent B3 and keyboard player.

BW: You also worked with Ben Sidran, too?

AA: I always liked Ben's playing, especially on that first LP he did for Blue Thumb.

BW: I Lead a Life where Upchurch plays some unreal funky bass, with Clyde Stubblefield was on drums, as well as the great Blue Mitchell.

AA: Yes that's the one; I also loved that album cover, too.

BW: Oh yeah, the one where Ben is sitting in a car with his bare foot hanging out the window. You also had a relationship with Tommy LiPuma.

AA: Tommy's one of the nicest guys I know. We still keep in touch, and I know his entire family, been to his house, and we like to drink that good Italian wine. He produced my first LP It's Private Tonight also on Blue Thumb where he encouraged me to sing so I also learned a lot from LiPuma, too.

BW: Here's an odd one, Nick DeCaro?

AA: The arranger who also recorded one for Blue Thumb. I worked on that one too, Italian Graffiti we had fun making that one. Yep, with Max Bennett and Wilton Felder on bass, Harvey Mason and Paul Humphrey on drums, and David T. Walker on guitar. LiPuma produced that LP as well. DeCaro was a very underrated arranger.

BW: Nick caught my ear on several albums, but especially with Upchurch's and Sidran's LPs. Whatever happened to Nick?

AA: He passed many years ago.

BW: Sorry to hear about DeCaro's passing. I did not know. Arthur, thank you so much for all of this. I can talk to you for days, best wishes with Stomp the Floor, too!

Bob Putignano is a contributing editor at BluesWax. You may contact Bob at: bob8003@yahoo.com web site: www.SoundsofBlue.com

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com