Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

It’s so easy to get carried away with a debut; tempting to announce that so-and-so has “burst on the scene.” Well color me “carried away:” I find it both easy and tempting to report that, as a leader, baritonist Adam Schroeder has dutifully exploded as horn soloist and arranger, having sculpted nine inventive concepts out of eleven piano-less tracks. If that invites comparison with Gerry Mulligan, try this one on for size: while Schroeder seems to have emerged full-blown from Mulligan’s stew, along with Gary Smulyan’s slightly more modern ideas, the other half of the front line — guitarist Graham Dechter (the youngster is doing some bursting of his own) — is an amalgam of Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and, above all, Joe Pass. Considering the rhythm section, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, this album provides well over an hour of intense, intelligent, bop-tinged straightahead jazz.

You want highlights? Try any track. The first, “I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed,” is a swinging template for all the sounds that follow. Dechter’s chordal intro, over Hamilton’s brushwork and Clayton’s rhythmic doublings, offer a gentle cushion for Schroeder’s uplifting pick-up notes. Adam digs the swooping motif: he repeats it often. When the first chorus ends, the key and the mood change; hard swing prevails; so does chamber gentility. “Midwest Mash” reveals economy of means: Hamilton maintains a timbales-like effect on his drums; Clayton creates a near-Latin feel with tricky syncopation, especially under Schroeder’s solo, during which the guitarist unveils a “Wes-side” homage; and Clayton contributes a searing solo. Neal Hefti’s sensuous “Pensive Miss” conjures up his atmospheric “Li’l Darlin’,” and Schroder basks in it, mostly in his sublime tenor range, demonstrating, as does Clayton, how eloquent silences can be. “Jessica’s Birthday” must have been quite a bash; Quincy Jones fashioned a bop line for it and Clayton’s young son, pianist Gerald, constructed a chart that clearly indicates he’s maturing as an arranger. Solo highlights belong to Schroeder and Dechter.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published