On the zany outer edges of the aesthetic universe, where the disparate galaxies of Thelonious Monk and the Three Stooges intersect, that's where you'll find pianist Terry Adams.
The jazz giant and the thickheaded threesome are both obsessions of Adams, a founding member of NRBQ — the ultimate "musician's musician" band, at least if you call diehard fans Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello and Keith Richards musicians. And the influences of both Monk and the Three Stooges are manifested in Adams' performances, a madcap mix of highbrow and lowbrow where slapstick meets bebop meets a rock 'n' roll backbeat, and where silly fun and seriously badass music don't have to be mutually exclusive.
From the cozy confines of his snowbound home in Brattleboro, Vt., Adams spoke with the Scene about about Monk, the Three Stooges and his latest project, The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet, who play The Basement Friday night.
Adams says that when he was young, he'd go see Monk — whom he cites as "probably my favorite musician of all time" — whenever he could, mostly in New York City. One night he mustered up the nerve to go up to the stage and make a request: "Gallup's Gallup," one of Monk's most challenging and obscure compositions. Monk turned to the saxophonist, Paul Jeffrey, and said, "You know 'Gallup's Gallup'?" When Jeffrey replied no, a stone-faced Monk looked at Adams and put him on the spot, asking "How does it go?"
"I don't think anybody could think of a worse kind of recital than having to sing 'Gallup's Gallup' to Thelonious Monk," Adams says, laughing. "The intervals are impossible to sing, for me. It's the ultimate test. He might have thought I was just rattling off a title to him."
Regardless, Adams soldiered on, undaunted. "I stood there in front of Monk and Paul," he says, "and I sang 'Gallup's Gallup' the best I could," Adams says. "And Monk just looked at Paul, pointed to me and said, 'He knows it. Why don't you?' Oh, the look on his face!"
If you're not familiar with Adams' oeuvre, don't let the Monk love fool you. Despite his prodigious jazz chops, dissonant voicings and angular lines, Adams is first and foremost a rock 'n' roll piano player — in fact, though he may lack the recognition of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard or Dr. John, it's not a stretch to call him one of the best living rock pianists. For evidence, look no further than "Get Down Grandpa" and "Honey Hush," from The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet's live 2009 album Crazy 8's.
And it's not just Adams' ivory-tickling that makes Crazy 8's a barn burner. The Quartet's lineup is arguably as lithe, wacky and explosive as NRBQ in their heyday. Guitarist Scott Ligon is an unqualified badass — he echoes Adams' gift for balancing melody with dissonance, while his ferocity and musical humor are more than sufficient to silence fans still pining for the Q's Al Anderson days. Bassist Pete Donnelly and drummer Conrad Choucroun, meanwhile, rock like a runaway locomotive about to jump the tracks. The Basement show could very well turn out to be the best night of good ol' barroom rock 'n' roll Nashville sees this year.
And if that isn't enough to get you off your ass Friday night, consider this: Not only did the Quartet play Boston station TV38's New Year's Eve Three Stooges Marathon this year ... not only did Adams write the NRBQ classic "Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard" and more recently "A Girl Who Loves the Stooges" ... but Adams actually tracked down Stooge Larry Fine in Los Angeles for a personal tête-a-tête, and then called Moe Howard on the phone. When Moe asked how Larry was doing, Adams said he'd just had a tooth pulled.
Moe's response? "Eh, serves him right."
And if you miss the Quartet at The Basement, well, it serves you right.
well fuck you anon! Go and Catch fire!
The guitar is a custom made Gretsch he used on the Raconteurs tours...sweet. I couldn't…
I knew him before the beard.
Sometimes I think snowman69 makes good points. But I think he's way off the mark…