In a time when many artists’ truest musical hearts are sacrificed to the notion of “mainstream success at all costs,” Lincoln Adler has made the bold decision to return to his roots. Jazz fans in his hometown of Berkeley, California and throughout the country best know the saxophonist for his longtime association with Times 4, as well as the band Rain-bo Tribe and his well-received mid-90s solo albums “The Dream” and “Short Stories.” But those recordings only tell part of Adler’s story, as his vibrant release “Are You In There?” reveals. Blending such diverse jazz influences as Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Eddie Harris, and Joe Henderson with his melodic, groove intensive leanings towards funk bands like Parliament and Earth, Wind & Fire, Adler creates a sly mix of straight ahead, blues, latin, retro-soul and world beat sounds.
Those who have only known him as a smooth and funky sax man will be more than satisfied with the result. Adler’s goal is to show dimensions of himself he has been exploring in live situations for years, but hasn’t yet had the opportunity to capture on disc. “My previous projects focused on a side of music I definitely love, but really gave off no sense of my jazz roots,” he says. “I’ve always loved improvisation, soloing in the jazz context, even when I was playing the more pop oriented tunes. With so many musical choices out there, the challenge is to get people’s attention with something unique and different from anything else. Going more commercial on the previous efforts earned me some respect, but I didn’t feel I was always doing what came naturally. When it came time to record this one, I knew that I’d have to do what came from inside.”
The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
Adler has seen tremendous growth within himself as a jazz player over the past several years. He attributes much of that growth to his ongoing gigs with Times 4, as well as his 5-year stint with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, featuring actor/pianist Jeff Goldblum. The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra played regularly at Los Angeles venues, and even made an appearance as the opening act at the Playboy Jazz Festival. Because of its high profile status, the band has been written up in various publications including People and L.A. Magazines. The band has enjoyed guest appearances by top musicians and celebrities like Tom Scott, Randy Crawford, Barbara Morrison, Eric Benet, Anthony Wilson, Jim Carrey and John Lovitz (who both sing on occasion!).
“Playing jazz standards with all of these amazing players and singers has improved my straight ahead chops tremendously, because I constantly feed off their tremendous rhythmic, melodic and harmonic challenges,” he says. “My favorite players/composers are the ones who keep a tight focus on strong melodies. This shows up in my own work...I just have this desire to express myself artistically while also creating a very entertaining record.”
Are You In There?
Adler launches “Are You In There?” with a tribute to the great Eddie Harris entitled “Listen Up,” . Featuring the incredible playing of Grammy nominated guitarist Anthony Wilson, this piece finds Adler winding his smoky tenor sax around the staccato keyboard harmonies of John Beasley (an incredible musician who has played with Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard). Adler slyly blends a bass clarinet harmony line around a semi-angular sax melody on the moody and seductive “Mysteriosa,” which heats up at one point into a brassy salsa arrangement. After accompanying soulful vocalist Moira Dahling on the subdued late night ballad “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Adler jams with Beasley and Wilson on the explosive title track, a blues, which joyfully explores the more traditional side of his playing. A world music vibe provides a cool thread through the exotic “Freedom Belly Dance,” which combines a galloping percussion groove, punchy sax melody, and some riff trading between Adler’s sax, Nick Lane’s trombone, and Rick Musallam’s eastern-influenced guitar. Adler mixes his love for a slow grind with the soulful sounds of his husky tenor sax on “Hipnotic Suggestion.” “Hide and Seek” brings the energy back up with a strong melodic hook, and a beautiful wah wah guitar solo by Musallam. Then things get even funkier with the aptly titled “Mmm Hmm!,” which features an incredible bass solo by Ernest Tibbs. Wrapping up the set is a playful quartet reading of the standard “Look For the Silver Lining,” with Adler giving the lyrics a deep, smooth, ironic delivery.
While some of the stylistic trappings have changed and clubs have come and gone, Adler continues on his road as one of the S.F. Bay Area scene’s most exciting performers. “Whether I’m playing live, or recording a CD, I’m always conscious of the melodic content of my solos,” he says. “Whenever I take the horn to my mouth, or the pen to the paper, my goal is to create music with melodies people remember, something they can sing along with.” Mission accomplished thus far. His multicultural band Rain-bo Tribe hit high on the New Adult Contemporary Charts in 1993 with their recording debut “What They Don’t Tell You.” The album hit #14 in the Gavin Report and Black Radio Exclusive, and Number 20 with a bullet in Radio & Records. Jazziz Magazine touted his solo debut “The Dream” as “a grand mixture of radio friendly ballads and punchy riffs, full of potent sparks,” and his eclectic “Short Stories” received similar accolades as it found its audience. His latest band, Times 4, has been called "one of the finest jazz-funk-soul combos in California” by noted jazz columnist Jim Harrington of the San Jose Mercury News and Oakland Tribune.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Adler started on the piano at age five before picking up the clarinet in grade school. In high school, inspired by Grover Washington Jr.’s classic Mr. Magic, he traded in his clarinet for the tenor saxophone, and began studying the playing of the jazz masters. In college, he became a vital part of the jazz ensemble at UC Berkeley, touring Japan, Northern Europe, Poland and Scandinavia. Along with his formal Berkeley training, Adler studied privately with several teachers, including legendary sax man Joe Henderson. A move to Los Angeles led to numerous musical opportunities, and he has amassed an exciting resume as a composer, performer, producer and arranger for a wide variety of recording artists. In addition, he has written numerous scores and soundtracks for film, as well as commercial jingles for TV and radio. Besides the ‘Nita Whitaker hit “Love Me Down Slowly,” his songs have been recorded by ASAP (“The Girl Who Could Fly,” a Japanese release that sold over 300,000 copies), Javetta Steele, Denitria Champ, Motown Recording artist Ronee Martin, the TerpsiCorps Dance Company, Rain-bo Tribe and Times 4.
Adler has performed on albums by artists such as kd lang, Olivia Newton-John, and The Jets, has been in bands opening for Lee Ritenour, BB King, Sonny Rollins, Robert Cray and Roy Hargrove. He was the featured sax soloist on the theme song for the TV show The Newz. Some of his soundtrack work includes a tune on Fox TV’s “New York Undercover,” the score for the film “On The Edge” and the tune “Read My Lips” from the film “Rich Girl.”
A New Record Label - Groove Tonic Media
Adler has also taken the leap into the business and marketing end of the industry, launching his own label, Groove Tonic Media. “It’s difficult being an artist on a small label where they can’t always give your project full attention,” he says. “Rather than dwell on the negative, I chose to take control of my career and my music and handle all the crucial details myself. This album was created entirely on a Macintosh computer, from the recording, to the mix, to the album graphics. The lesson I’m trying to teach people is, with all this new technology, you don’t need a specialist to make a record...you can literally try this at home! I know a lot of great musicians who are finding it hard to get their music heard. My plan is to show them the tools, and build a cooperative label so talented artists can get their work to the people themselves.”
Both musically and business-wise, Lincoln Adler is committed to following his heart, wherever the music takes him. “Are You In There?” reaches to his core and finds him exploring what seems like new avenues, but which have always been part of who he truly is. It makes for one of our greatest musical discoveries.