I first heard Adam Rogers in the early eighties with a group he co-led called “Lost Tribe” and I thought then that this was a player to keep an eye, or more accurately, an ear out for. There was an intensity in his playing that transcended the usual jazz-rock players of that era and I liked it very much. Unfortunately, I lost track of Rogers’ career soon after and it has only been within the last few years that I have “come across” it again. So when Rogers latest Criss Cross release Apparitions came to my door, I was absolutely delighted.
From the first few bars of “Labyrinth” to the last note of a “Moment in Time”, it was like time had stood still as I heard the same intensity and expression that set Adam Rogers apart from the norm so many years ago. Except this time he’s playing with both barrels as it were.
Needless to say, the playing on Apparitions is killer from the get go. Rogers and company, Chris Potter on tenor sax, Edward Simon on piano, Scott Colley on bass, and Clarence Penn on drums, nail each tune to the wall as all display a virtuosic command of their respective instruments, while keeping in check the understanding that this is a group effort with lots of interesting interplay and innate listening. And while Chris Potter is a definite show stopper, it is Rogers who steals the show on this date. In my humble opinion at least.
Case in point is the second tune “Tryanny of Fixed Numbers” where Rogers dons a strat with more than a twinge of overdrive and just lets loose in the solo section with a flurry of notes that should even have the most jaded critic nodding approval. Rogers playing on this tune brought back memories of Alan Holdsworth circa Tony Williams’s Life Time group. Not to say that Rogers is copping Holdsworth licks. On the contrary. It is the initial similarity in technique and attitude when first hearing Holdsworth that reminds me of Rogers now. The “how the heck does he do that” syndrome that seems to overwhelm so many of us from time to time. No mistaking it, Roger’s has his own musical voice both in melodic association and harmonic design.
“Persephone”, the third track on the CD, sets up a moody change of pace utilizing a haunting melody and harmonic arrangement played delicately by Simon with Potter following the melodic line nicely. Rogers plays some nice moving lines throughout the form as he takes the first chorus with Simon following soon after. There’s some nice counterpoint near the end of the tune between Rogers and Potter giving the tune a nice balance of improvisational ability and compositional aplomb.
The pace picks up on the fourth track “Continuance” with some nice stop time group arrangements under Rogers’s dexterous melody. Simon puts in a great unrestrained solo before Rogers dominates the form with a flood of notes that at times reminds me of Pat Martino’s fluid execution and single line development.
The next four tunes, “The Maya”, “Apparitions”, “Amphora”, and “Moment in Time”, all exhibit the aforementioned excellence of playing discussed and I would be hard pressed to single any one tune out as more exceptional than the others. That being said, I feel that special note should be mentioned concerning the title track “Apparitions”, a tune that definitely showcases Rogers’s compositional abilities which extend far beyond the confines of a “head-bridge-solo-head-out” sensibility. And while there is no improvisational section on this tune it still manages to bring out the musical qualities of the players Rogers was writing for. As he himself states in the liner notes “their playing as individuals and collectively is in my mind when I compose…I’m hearing all their sounds…” ‘Nuff said!
One more special note should be made for the final cut “Moment in Time” given that it is in a trio setting with Rogers playing a steel string throughout. This is Rogers’s more sensitive side and he’s not afraid to show it (especially with outstanding support from Penn and Colley who adds his own sensitivity and warmth to the tune). However, this softer side doesn’t dampen Rogers’s intensity for the fluid line as he maintains his musical spirit while adding warmth to the resolution of a brilliant album. Hopefully he will feature the steel string or classical more prominently in future recordings.
As you can guess, I was very pleased to be reacquainted with Adam Rogers’s work and I look forward to checking out more of his recorded offerings. If you are a student and/or fan of modern Jazz Guitar fare with exceptional improvisational talent from all concerned then this is definitely THE CD to pick up and check out. Enjoy!