Name: Greg Adams
Location: LA/Hollywood, CA
Profession: Trumpet Player/Arranger/Composer
Years Playing: since the age of 5
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GREG ADAMS:
Greg Adams graduated from high school in 1970 and was planning on attending school at Berklee School of music, but instead joined a band called “Tower of Power” from Oakland, CA that was just about to put horns on their first record. He had known the members of the group for several years, and with the knowledge of Greg Adams being an arranger, they asked him to join the band when there was an opening. So, in the end, Greg Adams had to make the decision of joining a band or going to college. Tower of Power already had a recording contract and Greg really wanted to be in a band, so the group became his music education. He had the chance to do all the things he would have learned to do in school while touring and getting paid to play. “So really, that was my university, joining Tower of Power, and I stayed with them for 25 years.”
He wished he had gone to college and strongly advises anyone who wants to do music to go to college so you can get a teaching credential to have something to fall back on. “You have to be really prepared and school will teach you more about music and you want to be well versed in the language of music.”
WHEN DID HE FIRST BEGIN SERIOUSLY STUDYING HIS INSTRUMENT?
“I started at about five years old, but I kind of dragged the horn around until I got a sound of it at about ten. In high school, I studied with several local professional musicians in the Bay area where I grew up.”
Greg Adams parents were musicians and he went to music camp every summer to play in brass bands. He was in Salvation Army brass bands playing cornet, which is where he got his classical training, but his jazz training he got from his private teachers.
His first trumpet he owned in high school. It was a French Bessen that he bought from his teacher. But he’s played on pretty much every horn since. He now plays a Monette Ajna Bb trumpet, a Bel Canto Bb trumpet and Kanstul Flugelhorn.
WHO ARE HIS GREATEST INFLUENCES?
There are a lot of people who have influenced Greg Adams, but his biggest influence was the writing of Henry Mancini. Later, while he was touring with TOP he met him, and talked to him for forty minutes. Greg Adams is also influenced Quincy Jones’ writing. As far as trumpet, he has a lot of influences, including Miles Davis and Randy Brecker, but doesn’t pattern himself after any one of two other artists.
WHO OR WHAT GAVE HIM THE CONFIDENCE TO PURSUE MUSIC AS A CAREER AS OPPOSED TO A HOBBY?
His parents… they were both musicians and they greatly encouraged him. His mom was a pianist and trombonist and his father played cornet. His parents were a large influence in letting him flourish.
WHAT IS HIS OPINION ON JOINING THE MUSICIAN’S UNION?
“When you can join the Union, join it – it does have benefits, especially for recording. In today’s world, with all the home studios and the way records are made, it is hard to think that the Union is relevant. There just aren’t as many sessions any more, and those that there are, there are a few 100 players that get them all. Music is cyclical and you haven’t heard a lot of horns on records, but horn parts are coming back.”
BRIEFLY DESCRIBE THE DIFFICULTY TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN YOUR CAREER WHILE REMAINING TRUE TO THE ART FORM WITHOUT “SELLING OUT” TO POPULAR ART?
When Greg Adams left TOP, he was immediately offered a solo deal with Epic Records as a smooth jazz artist and he took it. He put out “Hidden Agenda” with the single “Smooth Operator”. Since, Greg Adams has put out a few other records, “Midnight Morning,” (Blue Note) and “Firefly“.
Jazz is really tough to make a living at, especially straight ahead jazz. Although I love to play jazz, I can’t afford to just do that. So you have to give and take, and at the end of the day I don’t feel like of sold out. However, there is a lot of mediocrity in smooth jazz. There are a few good artists, but they don’t always rise to the top. You have to have a record company to help you rise to the top as an artist.”
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT YOUR GENDER OR APPEARANCE HAS AFFECTED YOUR CAREER? IF SO, HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED YOURSELF TO CONFORM TO YOUR INDUSTRY STANDARDS? HAS THIS CHANGED OVER TIME?
“I don’t think that it has changed at all. Gender and appearance have always played a role in everything. It’s so easy to say that it is tougher for girls to get a break, but then again, there are just so many more men because girls just don’t really decide to pursue music as often as men do. Image does play a role, because if you are handsome and beautiful, people are going to use that. But I let my playing and my writing speak for itself. In a perfect world, that’s how it should be, but it’s not a perfect world.”
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WITH YOUR CAREER FOR YOURSELF? HOW HAS MONEY CHANGED YOUR INITIAL CAREER PLANS?
“No, I’ve never had a real huge hit record – that kind of money changes your life because you have such a stream of income. It’s so much money, so soon and it can change you for the worst. I’ve kind of kept an even keel. You’re only as good as you’re last project because you are remembered for the last thing that you did.”
“Money has not changed me because I don’t go out and [spoil myself], but it’s a real trap to fall into. You have to have a team behind you to advise you so you don’t blow it. It can end as fast as it happened – the one hit wonders. It is a tough world… a tough business to be in.”
DOES HE WISH ANYTHING HAD HAPPENED DIFFERENTLY WITH HIS CAREER?
“Well sure, everything I just said on the last question, I wish would have happened to me. There are always things you’ll look back and wish you’d done differently, but you can’t look at life that way, you just have to keep going.”
WHERE DOES HE THINK MUSIC IS GOING?
“Well, music is going in its own direction. But music is cyclical, there are only so many styles that you can do in the world of music, so things kind of go in and out of popularity, so different styles that are now passé will come back around.”
WHAT INSPIRES HIM TO CONTINUE TO PURSUE MUSIC? HAS HE EVER COME CLOSE TO GIVING UP?
“I love music, and I would never even think of doing anything else. It’s what I do and couldn’t imagine trying to get another career. I will always be a musician.”
COOL PEOPLE HE HAS PLAYED WITH:
“I have played with hundreds of people on hundreds of records. But to name a few, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart a couple times, Huey Lewis and the News, Michael Brecker, and a group called Dreams Come True from Tokyo.”
WHAT WAS LAMEST HIS GIG?
One time in Fairbanks Alaska with TOP. They were on a stage eight inches high, and were playing on a PA system that made a buzzing noise louder than the band. The show was on an air force base and no one came. If he was in the audience, he would have wanted his money back.
The worst shows are the ones where you are there and no one cares. Where you are an annoyance because people have to talk over the music. There will always be lame gigs, and you have to take the good with the bad.
Another lame gig was on tour with TOP. They had a huge poster with a lead pipe so it would roll down at the beginning of the show. So this one time in Seattle, someone gave the signal to pull the rope too soon, so as he was walking out and the lead pipe came down and hit him on the top of the forehead and split his head open. He got back just in time to play the last song, “What is Hip”.
ADVICE FOR A YOUNG MUSICIAN:
“Practice. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to your instrument. You have to think about music as a language. The more education you have, the better you are at the language. Because music is a communicative thing, you get along better with people. There are so many things music gives you. 99% of kids are not going to choose music as a vocation, but there will always be something that you take away from your music experience.”
HIS MOST EMBARRASSING MUSICAL MOMENT:
Once in Toronto in the 70s, at the end of a show when the lights were going crazy, he would throw his horn up in the air and catch it. One night, he threw the horn up in the air and he didn’t catch it. He hasn’t thrown up in the air since.
FAVORITE JOKE ABOUT HIS INSTRUMENT:
“Trumpet Player’s head explodes after playing high note” – as a tabloid headliner.
Monette Ajna Bb trumpet, Bel Canto Bb trumpet, Audio Technica wireless mics, monster cable
LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION?
Greg Adams has his own website with an official biography with full credits, discography, and sound clips.