Sunday, November 6, 2011


Dwight Adams
Dwight Adams is one of the top jazz trumpet players breathing. It’s a crying shame Adams is not on a major jazz label like his peers Sean Jones, Terell Stafford, Jeremy Pelt, Nicholas Payton and Marcus Printup. Being unsigned doesn’t bother Adams at all. Adams told me so between sets at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe Saturday night.

We set at the bar. I asked if he was working on his first album yet. Adams said, “Some cats have a lot to say musically, and they have a desire to be in the spotlight. I think that’s okay, but I’m not that kind of guy”.

I shot back, “You need to document that you’re a major figure on the Detroit jazz scene”.

“I’m documented on a lot of albums,” Adams countered.

That’s true. Adams has played on albums by James Carter, Donald Walden, Rodney Whitaker, Buddy Budson, Sean “Thunder” Wallace, Stevie Wonder and a host of others. 

For now, Adams is perfectly happy with recording as a sideman. Adams is a fine bandleader. When he’s not touring with Stevie Wonder, he leads a righteous quartet that includes bass player Ralphe Armstrong, drummer Alex White, and piano player Rick Roe.

Saturday night, that quartet muscled through jazz staples “Seven Steps to Heaven,” “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “One Finger Snap,” “Freedom Jazz Dance,” and “Ask Me Now”.

Adams never the attention hog put the spotlight on White and Roe. White is a promising young drummer. He was comfortable sharing the bandstand with Detroit jazz royalty. His solos were thought out.

I heard White for the first time a few months ago at Cliff Bell’s. White was louder than a drunken sports fan. Last night, White proved he’s capable of modifying his playing to suit any musical setting.

Adams is a no-nonsense boss. He won’t tolerate showboating under his watch. He picked up that hard-nose trait during his apprenticeship with the great piano player and jazz educator Teddy Harris.

Roe and Adams have been running together for ages it seems. Lately, Roe has been inactive. His wife is ill. Roe dropped everything to take care of her. Roe only plays occasionally, but his chops are still up.

Roe had the house piano swinging like a puppet on Herbie Hancock’s “One Finger Snap”. Then Roe lulled the standing room only crowd like a mother does a newborn on Thelonious Monk’s ballad “Ask Me Now”.

Adams gave the crowd a gift, inviting drummer Karriem Riggins to sit-in for two songs. Riggins set the drums ablaze, and White jokingly refused to resume playing afterward. Adams had some choice solos. On slow tempo number he glided through the tunes like a world champion figure skater.

Adams runs a disciplined band. Even Ralphe Armstrong who’s prone to clowning around was on his best behavior. Maybe one day soon, Adams will give his fans a gift by putting out his first album.
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