ADAM RAFFERTY GOES BACK TO BASICS
"I think, the first time I heard the guitar I was still in my mother's womb" says Adam Rafferty.
He was born and raised in Harlem. He was mugged in front of his building when he was 10. He played in a hard rock band at 12, got ripped off by a club owner on his first gig at 15, and by 18 he was a rapper on a gold record in overseas.
By 19 he was playing guitar professionally and at 20 he was playing an after hours joint in Harlem on 137 street and Adam Clayton Boulevard where the bandleader would drink himself into to oblivion and regularly threaten customers with a 10 inch kitchen knife.
Adam has played the New York City subways, street corners - and played the most upscale music rooms New York has to offer such as Birdland and The Jazz Standard. He's led his own band through Europe, produced his own albums, and never doubted for one minute his sole purpose in life - to play the guitar.
That's callled "paying dues" - and you hear it in his songs, in his feeling for the blues, in his groove, in his touch. The history and life experience puts the fire in this man's music. He puts the "sizzle" in the "steak" musically speaking.
Adam Rafferty (a.k.a. "Raf") has since played as a first-call, in-demand guitarist with the greatest musicians on the planet at countless music festivals (US and Europe), concert halls, and New York City night clubs - with the likes of Dr. Lonnie Smith, The Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, L.A. Studio legend Bennie Wallace (wrote the soundtrack for "White Men Can't Jump"), bassist Bob Cranshaw (from the original Saturday Night Live band), and Alvin Queen (drummer for Oscar Peterson), and Mike Longo - Dizzy's pianist - to name a few.
Students have traveled across the country, and flown in from Europe - just to pick Adam's brain for of guitar knowledge. He's taught countless workshops, written books and even has a new instructional DVD available.
So why is he playing solo acoustic guitar?
"When I was a kid my Dad played his old Martin guitar for me - and it was magic. In fact, that's the original magic that turned me on to music. I remember the smell of the wood, the crispy sound of the steel strings, and my connection with my Dad. Playing acoustic guitar feels like coming home to me."
"I still love playing with a band - the raucous, edgy possibilities of grooving with the drums and bass. I will never stop doing that, ever. But right now I am moved deeply by the sound of the acoustic guitar. It is making my heart sing and making me feel good - so it must be right."
His new CD "Gratitude" consists of original compositions and cover songs by Steive Wonder, The Beatles, Bill Withers, and one of his employers - Dr. Lonnie Smith.
"I chose songs with strong melodies that I love to hear. It's not even about 'playing guitar' at this point - it's about conveying music and leading listeners through a musical experience. The guitar is simply my tool to do that."
"All great artists take chances, break out of their prior molds. The danger for the artist is to do what worked last week, or last month and to become a caricature of himself. It 'worked' becasue it was fresh and in the moment, and now it's old. That's why I am branching into uncharted territory. I feel excited and refreshed!"
The mix of well-known pop songs and original compositions will satisfy listeners from different backgrounds. Those who yearn for the familiar, and those who want original music, will both delight in this musical experience.
"The challenge of playing Stevie Wonder's music on solo guitar is well - serious! I had to arrange and practice songs with a bassline, melody and simultaneious rhythm parts for months, just to get it to gel. And I still need to practice daily to maintain my fluidity with the music."
"I love the way it physically challenges me and keeps my playing in tip top shape - and the payoff is that the music sounds great! Once I start nailing it I feel so enrgized and alive."
Rafferty's affinity for the Beatles started early on.
"The first songs I ever played were Beatles songs, and their records were the first I heard. In fact, at age 6 I performed 'Blackbird' and got my first standing ovation. What a thrill! I felt a surge of positive energy from the audience, and enjoyed giving them the music even at that early age. This is my way of tipping my hat to the Beatles and saying thank you."
"The Bill Withers and Lonnie tunes have come into my life recently and I found that these infectious melodies stuck in my head. They are not typicallly played as solo guitar pices, to I thought what the heck - I am the man for this job! And - I love how groovy Dr. Lonnie is - I want to be able to lay a groove on an audience like he does. I have witnessed it and experienced being on the bandstand with him and it is AWESOME."
The 6 originals, "Simplicity", "Machine Gun", "Jill's Song", "America", "Vitamin E Blues" and "Grass" run the gamut from frenzied blugrass style flatpicking to to boogie woogie style blues, to evocative, lush picturesque ballads.
"I allow music to flow through me when I write, and for the first time in years, I am not censoring it. I trust that if i feels right, it is right - and that it will speak to others if it speaks to me."
And so the story goes - the true artist accomplishes and masters an art form, yet still seeks new horizons, improvement, growth, and renewal.
"I feel like a kid. There is so much music here, right here on this guitar of mine, I'll never get it done - but boy do I love working on it and sharing it with others."
He concludes, "I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had and continue to have - and I'm also thankful for the hardships as I look back. That's why I called this album 'Gratitude'. Thank You, Universe, for all that you have given and continue to give to me."