Youngblood is the first statement in what I hope will be a diverse and fulfilling musical life for the Adam Kromelow Trio. I believe it is an ideal debut record, as it fittingly encompasses what we are all about. Although we use the typical instrumentation of a piano trio in the jazz idiom, we certainly do not see ourselves as a “jazz trio.” Jason Burger, Raviv Markovitz and I all met in New York City pursuing our undergraduate degrees at Columbia University or the Manhattan School of Music, and the three of us have devoted much of our studies to Jazz. Although we have certainly fostered a deep love and respect for the music, we also share an equal interest and admiration for many other genres. Personally, I have a very special place in my heart for rock and classical music. As time progresses, there is a noticeable thinning of the lines between the contemporary jazz, classical, and rock genres, and in this band we really don’t see these lines at all.
The piano, bass, and drums are each an orchestra within themselves, and we are constantly exploring different ways in which to utilize their seemingly endless sonic pallets. We think of the trio as a three-piece ensemble in which any and all of the different textures, colors, moods, and feels available in music are fair game, and we definitely cover a lot of them on this album:
Three of the tunes featured on this CD, MOJO, UNDERCURRENT, and MR. POKEY are structured similarly to traditional jazz tunes in that their development comes from collective improvisation. The only composed elements of these tunes are the melodies and chord changes. Other than that, we allow ourselves the freedom to communicate and improvise and let these tunes take whatever shape comes naturally in the moment.
The rest of my compositions and arrangements, however, involve much more structure and written material. BLACK MAMBA, the opening track, is a great example of this. The main component of the melody is a singable tune that is heard in numerous contexts. The first time, it is played quietly by solo piano with dexterous flourishes underneath. It is then followed by a louder and more energetic restatement played by the whole band. Although this piece does feature some collective improvisation, I decided to compose an end-section to develop the composition further. This section serves as a loud climax in which we rock out on a third restatement of the melody played over dissonant chords and a dark sounding bass line. And to conclude, there is a fourth restatement, once again solo piano, this time without the flourishes in order to have a soft and calm finish.
BUSHIDO, which in Japanese means “Way of The Warrior”, is a piece written about my thirteen years of karate training. The first half is a haunting yet peaceful song that is stated simply and softly. The second half, however, is a completely different animal. This part features very fast repeated chords in the upper register over a forceful melody played in the lower register by the bass and left hand of the piano. Our goal for this section is to morph into a full orchestra (or perhaps a plugged-in rock band) and create a level of sound that is difficult to achieve with acoustic instruments. For the end of this piece I stole the rhythm of a “Kata”, which is a sequence of karate moves done with a very specific timing, and had the band play this sequence in unison. We don’t play these final notes like musicians, but rather attack them like martial-artists, which gives Bushido a very poignant and powerful ending.
Of all of John Lennon’s and Paul McCartney’s wonderful compositions, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is to me the most beautiful. When arranging this song for the trio, I kept thinking, “what can you do to change an already perfect song?” The answer is, “nothing.” So I decided on a simple arrangement involving no re-harmonizations and no improvisation. Instead we just slow it down (so that the wonderful experience of hearing this song will last longer) and play it in a way that lets this beautiful tune speak for itself.
Our version of Thelonious Monk’s BRILLIANT CORNERS is definitely one of the most fun for us to play. I love playing Monk’s compositions, because they are incredibly thematically driven, and it is a fun challenge to tamper with them. Our arrangement is a free, collective improvisation based on whichever of Brilliant Corner’s themes we are in the mood to tamper with at the time, and it isn’t until the very end that we showcase the original melody as Monk conceived it.
I grew up listening to Genesis and Peter Gabriel, and it is because of my deep love for their music that I became musician in the first place. Every time I get to pay homage to these brilliant artists by performing one of their songs, it is an extremely profound and touching experience for me. I do not take the task lightly. Peter Gabriel’s MERCY STREET has always been one of my favorite songs and I knew I wanted to do it with this band. Like Across The Universe, I felt that it was perfect as it was and didn’t require any solos. Instead, I sought to shed new light on this song, whose original version is soft and quiet, by making our version one giant crescendo. So, our arrangement begins with a gentle piano statement of the melody, and slowly continues to build energy until reaching a “merciless” jam section between the three of us.
UPGRADE is a tune that I wrote specifically to end this album. I wanted a song that leaves listeners feeling uplifted and ready for the next Adam Kromelow Trio statement that will come their way. This is a fun and interesting tune, because it combines elements pop music and minimalism. Instead of being based on a melody, this tune centers around a repetitive riff played over a brisk rock groove that slightly morphs as it progresses. I am not always a big fan of songs ending with an exact restatement of their theme, so the end of this tune is an altered restatement of the main riff with added low register counterpoint, followed by a coda in which much rocking out ensues. Taking cue from my heroes in Genesis, I wanted to end with a bang.
Speaking of heroes, this project would not have been possible without the tremendous work and effervescent personality of our producer and mentor Arturo O’Farrill. His wisdom and humor made the typically stressful task of recording an album feel fun and effortless. As fortunate as I am to be working with Arturo, I feel equally blessed to share this music with Raviv Markovitz and Jason Burger. Their friendship and incredible playing is a constant inspiration, and their innovative ideas shape each song into the magnificent final products that you are about to hear. It is because of them that I am so proud of this CD.
And finally, my deepest thanks to you for devoting an hour of your time to check out the Adam Kromelow Trio.
- Adam Kromelow
Produced by Arturo O’Farrill. Recorded at Tedesco Studios April 9-10, 2011. Mixed and Mastered by Dan Knobler for Mason Jar Music. Photography by Sasha Arutyunova. Art Direction, Photo Editing and Design by Jack Frisch. Executive Producer: Joachim “ Jochen” Becker.