Bootleg Blindfold Series: Adam Birnbaum

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I’ve been a fan of Adam Birnbaum‘s playing for several years now but had never gotten the chance to make music with him up until this past year, where I had the great fortune of sharing the stage with him on multiple occasions.   The first was at special sextet put together by saxophonist Mike Tucker for a residency at Salem State University and the second one was a great run of concerts with Darcy James’s Secret Society in the US and Europe.  Here’s the answers and comments to the test from Adam:

Example 1:  Fred Hersch, Nobody Else But Me,  live in NYC in duo with Mark Turner (year unknown).

(1) Fred Hersch playing “Nobody Else But Me.” Nothing else sounds like Fred playing solo piano. He’s simply a master and has truly developed his own language on the instrument, especially in this setting.

Example 2:  Aruan Ortiz, Ask me Now live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

(2) “Ask Me Now” the pianist–and the rhythm section–is very modern, but there are some elements of traditional jazz piano in there. Tough one to identify but I would guess Jason Moran.
After: I have met Aruan several times and found him to be a very nice guy, but honestly I am not very familiar with his playing so I guess that explains my difficulty identifying this one.

Example 3:  McCoy Tyner, Darn That Dream live at the Regattabar in Cambridge (year unknown)

(3) “Darn That Dream” Andrew Hill. His eccentricities (sudden changes in dynamics, thick percussive dense voicings, heavy pedal use, unusual combination of traditional and extremely modern) are pretty recognizable.

After:  Wow, did I fail to recognize McCoy on a blindfold test?! That’s jazz piano 101. However, in my defense this is a very tricky one. I’ve seen him do a solo standard in the middle of a set but it was always much more in his typical style than this. Plus Andrew Hill does this song in the same key (in F instead of the usual G) on his solo piano record “Verona Rag” so I thought it had to be him.

Example 4:  Aaron Goldberg, Impressions live in Portugal with Nicholas Payton.

(4) “Impressions/So What” Sounds like Aaron Goldberg with Hutch. Aaron is so clean and has such a great feel.

Example 5:  Leo Genovese, Berlin (Jason Palmer)  live in NYC with Jason Palmer Septet

(5) This has to be Aaron Parks with what sounds like Eric Harland on drums. Beautiful solo. Really channels Paul Bley with some of those lines.

After:  Leo is a guy I’ve been hearing great things about for years but who unfortunately I haven’t ever seen play live. This track convinced me I need to change this, so I will definitely be checking him out. Really beautiful playing here.

Example 6: Gerald Clayton, Blues live at Jazz Gallery NYC with Patrick Cornelius Octet (2013).

(6) F blues. This is the hardest of the seven for me to identify. Swinging, tasteful, I like the interaction with the drummer, but nothing about this is particularly distinctive to me. I could wager a guess but I’ll choose to pass instead.

After: Well I know Gerald pretty well and have seen him play many times, and would like to think I know his style. I’m definitely a big fan. However this one just didn’t give me anything obvious to ID him. Listening back to it now I can hear it. Oh well. Looks like I have lots more listening to do.

Example 7:  Dave Kikoski, Mr. Day live in Xalapa Mexico with Jason Palmer, Francisco Mela, Emilliano Coronel (2013).

(7) Dave Kikoski with what sounds like Jeff “Tain” Watts playing “Mr. Day.” No one else plays this kind of burn-out jazz like Kiko.

Adam currently has a new album out entitled “Three of a Mind,” featuring Doug Weiss and Al Foster.  Keep up with Adam’s latest news about this release including a Cd Release at Smoke at his website!

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