Tony Adamo - What Is Hip? (2011)

Tony Adamo

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Tony Adamo's What is Hip? is a 50/50 album. I'm not talking about its quality, I mean that about half of the tunes are covers and about half of them are originals. But of the many enjoyable tracks on this CD, the one that absolutely stands out is Adamo's spoken word version of the Tower of Power classic that also serves as the title track for this album. Adamo gives listeners a band that captures the jazz influenced, wall of  sound funkiness of TOP - because if you're gonna cover a TOP songs you have to come correct. And instead of singing, Adamo delivers the lines in whimsical spoken word style.

Tony Adamo's What is Hip? is a 50/50 album. I'm not talking about its quality, I mean that about half of the tunes are covers and about half of them are originals. But of the many enjoyable tracks on this CD, the one that absolutely stands out is Adamo's spoken word version of the Tower of Power classic that also serves as the title track for this album. Adamo gives listeners a band that captures the jazz influenced, wall of  sound funkiness of TOP - because if you're gonna cover a TOP songs you have to come correct. And instead of singing, Adamo delivers the lines in whimsical spoken word style. Doing this song in a spoken word style - especially with Adamo's weathered voice that has that mix of wisdom and skepticism - brings home the fact that "What is Hip?" is one of those timeless songs. The word 'hip' may no longer be "hip" - for lack of a better word - but the concept of the eternal search for 'coolness,' resonates in our reality show, Facebook, body piercing and body art culture. 

Adamo is an artist who understands music history. That fact comes through on his cover of Grover Washington's "Make Me a Memory." Grover fans remember this instrumental from the great 1980 album "Winelight." Here, Adamo reprises an old jazz practice of penning lyrics for a classic tune. Pretty good lyrics, too,  about using the time that a couple has together to create their own memories. 

While not all of the covers work (Adamo's half spoken, half sung version "Eleanor Rigby" is a miss here), most certainly do, and it's great to hear some forgotten gems here such as "Rio de Janeiro Blue." That song was a staple of 1980's R&B radio back when Randy Crawford sang it, but you hardly hear it anymore.  And while many folks will focus on these more familiar songs, Adamo's originals match the covers in quality - most notably "Ecstasy," a mid-tempo Latin tinged number. 

One important factor that underlies its overall success of this album is that Adamo is confident enough to share the spotlight with his very capable musicians. These players infuse each song with a strong jazz component due to their inspired and energetic soloing. The musicianship, the lyrical content and Adamo's raspy and emotive vocals help make What is Hip? a solid work of mature soul/jazz. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

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