Friday, April 18, 1997
The Daily News
Ron Foley Macdonald

East Coast recording

Major jazz album worth the wait

Bucky Adams - In a Lovin' Way, (Deep Nine/Independent)

BUCKY ADAM's new CD is a further proof of the strength of the local jazz scene.  The veteran tenor saxophonist from Halifax's north end has been a fixture in musical circles for a long time.  Remarkably, this independently recorded album is his first major release.  Relaxed, confident and solidly executed, In a Lovin' Way is a fine showcase for Adams's smooth playing and writing talents.

   All but one of the tunes are composed or co-composed by Adams.  Many of the titles refer to the saxman's early days in the north end.  While the tunes evoke a strong sense of time and place, they are far less descriptive than Joe Sealy's recent Juno Award-winning Africville Suite.  Adams has a less ambitious agenda.  The smaller project retains a ripe sense of immediacy.  The instrumentation - a bright, swinging quartet of Skip Beckwith on standup bass, David James on drums and co-writer Woody Woods on piano - is direct and intimate.  The result is a comfortably swinging sound that allows Adams maximum room to glide his horn over a polished but surprisingly forceful backing.

   Adams's saxophone style fits nicely between the round, rolling tones of jazz great Coleman Hawkins and the honking calls of rhythm and blues legend King Curtis.  On the opening track, Maynard Street, Adams reaches back to the sound of the late '50s when jazz and vocal R&B weren't so far apart.  The perky melody sets up fine solo playin by Adams, while James Beckwith and Woods percolate along nicely.  The tune closes with juicy sax runs that whet your appetite.

   The mid-tempo pace of the second track, I Dream of You,, allows the quartet an expressive dynamic range.  The melancholy melody draws up images of lonely afternoons of quite desire; the tune reaches a peak with Adams's soul-searching solo.  There's not a misplaced note.  For jazz, it's a little marvel of economy: concise, disciplined and moving.

  There a couple of departures that help vary the sound.  The title track features a warm, dignified vocal from Adams.  Fans of the lounge pop-culture fad be warned: this is the real thing.  Full, joyful and swinging, In a Lovin' Way is the kind of performance that can only come from a wizened veteran who endured all the ups and downs of jazz over the last 30 years.

   Remember the Good Days is a pert, delightful waltz that lets Adams whirl his way right back to the styles of the late '40s.  Accompanied by the alternative funk band Hu Noo, which sounds like it's auditioning for a 1951 high-school variety show, it leads into the raucous and uninhibited Bucky's Back, a jazz-rock excursion powered by wah-wah guitars and a heavy drumbeat.  Adams is willing to stretch out into unknown territory.  It's an unexpected and inspired combination.

   The album returns to Earth with a gorgeous piano and sax reading of the only non-original selection, Deep Purple by Mitchell Parish and Peter De Rose.  Adams and Woods play it as a late-night saloon tune, the kind jazzers indulge in after everybody has gone home except the bartender.  The guys are playing for themselves here.  We're just lucky the tape recorder was running.

   Recorded at Stephen Outhit's Deep Nine Studio, In a Lovin' Way achieves a clean, uncomplicated sound that shows Adams off at his best.  Adams's own liner notes provide a classy personal touch to a solid jazz album.