Adam Rafferty is not only one of New York City's most-respected jazz guitarists, but he also is a leader in the field of "new traditionalism" in jazz. On his latest album with his trio, THREE SOULS, he demonstrates his deep affection for a classic, mainstream jazz sound, but for the first time he applies his technique to all-original material which allows him to bring more of his background to the mix with hints of blues, rock, funk and classical.
Rafferty, nicknamed "Swingmonster," has performed with jazz acts such as Mike Longo, Bob Cranshaw, The Dizzy Gillespie Big Band led by Jimmy Owens, The New York State of the Art Jazz Ensemble, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, Benny Golson, Paul West and Ben Brown. Adam also has sat in with Buster Williams, Lou Donaldson, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Norah Jones, John Abercrombie, George Benson, Gloria Lynn, Chris Potter and Marcus Printup.
Rafferty's recordings can be purchased or ordered in many stores nationwide. For more information or to order his albums online, go to his website (www.adamrafferty.com) or Consolidated Artists Productions' site (www.jazzbeat.com).
Mentored by pianist Mike Longo (Dizzy Gillespie's longtime musical director), Rafferty for the past decade-and-a-half has steeped himself in the tradition of playing jazz standards, be-bop and post be-bop. This stage of his development is evident on his previous three albums where Rafferty (using a quartet or trio) covered material by Coltrane, Ellington, Monk, Parker, Jobim, Gillespie and other masters (with a few originals thrown in). But slowly Adam realized the value of allowing into his music other styles he had studied over the years.
"One of the most valuable things I learned from Mike Longo is that every musician should strive to find his own voice and then everything else flows out of that," states Rafferty. "I initially developed my sound by playing jazz standards, especially tunes written by pianists or horn-players, with my own guitar-oriented arrangements. In terms of guitarists, I never sought to play imitatively. For example, I never learned solos or licks by Wes Montgomery and George Benson. What I did was hold myself to the standards set by all the great players of all instruments. The standards of excellence I strive for are in the areas of rhythm, groove, technique, lyricism, tone, mastery of my instrument, musical understanding and knowledge. With my practicing, I often sit down with music by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and attempt to play guitar at the same high level that they played their horns."
However, Rafferty grew up playing rock'n'roll, studied classical guitar for a half-dozen years, fronted a successful rap/hip-hop group, played the blues for a year with Jimmy "The Preacher" Robbins, and performed in various big bands. "After I really learned how to play the jazz standards, I realized I could use that knowledge to write my own material in almost any style. Original compositions are so freeing because you can go anywhere you want with them, and it seems to make more sense to let stylistic traits from other musical genres flow into the sound when I'm not playing a standard. But I still prefer playing my new music in the traditional jazz trio setting with acoustic bass and drums so the sound is a blend of old and new."
Rafferty has played with several different trios and quartets during his career, but for THREE SOULS he chose two musicians -- bassist Danton Boller and drummer Tomas Fujiwara -- he has a close rapport with since they have toured extensively together the past few years. Boller has played with Joshua Redman, Billy Higgins, Anthony Wilson, Bennie Wallace, Mulgrew Miller, the Village Vanguard Orchestra and The Jazz Mandolin Project. Fujiwara has performed with Anthony Braxton, Norah Jones, Ravi Coltrane, Junior Mance, Arnie Lawrence, Reggie Workman and Roy Campbell.
THREE SOULS begins with the tune "America" which was influenced by the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. "I tried to capture the mournful, yet hopeful feeling I have for all humanity." "Blues for Wes and George" is a tip-of-the-hat tribute to the styles of two of Adam's favorite guitarists. Rafferty's musical inspirations can come from such diverse sources as The Beatles' "Mother Nature's Son" ("Different Bread") or Gillespie's rhythms and Coltrane's "Impressions" melody ("Tempest"). "'Bootieology' is an acoustic trio version of funk," explains Rafferty. The album contains several bluesy numbers including "Blues For My Shoes" ("sort of an Oscar Peterson-style arrangement"), "Hurricane Bertha" ("with a touch of the tropics thrown in") and "Like No Place On Earth" ("certain melodies take me to a whole other spiritual world").
A lifelong inhabitant of New York City, Rafferty's earliest musical memory is his father singing and playing guitar and piano in the country and folk genres. At age five, Adam began taking acoustic guitar lessons from bluesman Woody Mann who taught a wide range of styles from Robert Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson to The Beatles. When Adam entered his teens, he switched to electric guitar and plunged into the rock'n'roll of Led Zeppelin and Van Halen with drummer John Christian Urich (currently with Tortured Soul). When Adam was 15, he decided he needed to know more about playing the guitar so he began intensive classical guitar studies.
Rafferty went to SUNY Purchase college majoring first in classical guitar and later in musical composition and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Rafferty and Urich initially played in a pop-rock band which evolved into a rap/hip-hop group Raf and Cooly-C with Adam upfront rapping. In the late Eighties they became a popular act performing in New York which led to recording several tracks for the album EDELWEISS on Atlantic Records which received extensive airplay and was certified a Gold Record for sales in numerous European countries including Holland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
However, at the same time Rafferty was introduced to jazz at college. Adam heard about Mike Longo, went to see Longo's trio perform at Birdland, and was solidly bitten by the jazz bug. Rafferty began taking lessons from Longo who encouraged the guitarist to leave the hip-hop world for jazz which Adam did in 1989. The next year he began performing with his own jazz trio, played three nights a week for a year with renowned bassist Ben Brown, and occasionally sat in with Longo. Mike told Adam his musical education would never be complete unless he journeyed uptown into Harlem, ignored cultural barriers and learned to play with a wider variety of jazz musicians. "The old guys up there took me under their wing and showed me a whole other level of jazz," Rafferty remembers. Soon he was playing with trumpeter Tippy Larkin and bluesman Jimmy "The Preacher" Robbins.
Eventually Rafferty built his reputation as one of the top jazz guitarists in New York City and became known for his refined style, warm tone and ability to swing in a variety of settings. While still in his early twenties, he released his debut album, FIRST IMPRESSIONS, backed by the Mike Longo Trio. Rafferty's second release, BLOOD, SWEAT & BEBOP, not only featured Longo, but also bassist Bob Cranshaw. By this time Adam was gigging regularly with his own trios, including European tours, so he left the quartet format behind for the trio albums KUSH and the new THREE SOULS. Rafferty also has contributed to several other recordings -- the New York Trio Project's FIFTH HOUSE and Mike Longo's big band albums AFTERMATH, EXPLOSION and OASIS.
"What keeps me going musically is the deep satisfaction and enjoyment I get from continually discovering little gems of music, both as a listener and as a player." explains Rafferty. "I don't know where the music comes from. It simply springs up suddenly and is revealed to me. It's my job to be ready for those musical moments so I can present them to the world."