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Adam Rafferty

Jazz is very much like a tree, with numerous branches reaching out, allowing it to finally define it’s identity. However, without that artiste to water and nurture it, the identity is lost and it’s existence becomes meaningless. Adam Rafferty is one of those few artistes’ who waters and nurtures growth into jazz every time he touches a string, or composes a mood a jazz guitarist/composer who interacts personally with every note and melody played within each eclectic style he chooses to liberate.

"Three Souls," released by Consolidated Artists Productions, is a fine example of Mr. Rafferty’s voice all original, all project-methodical sensations. This powerful musical illustration of true passion for one’s craft will stimulate the most passive listener.

Adam Rafferty joined JazzReview to speak about his most complex thoughts, ideals and passions within the world of jazz and "Three Souls."

JAZZREVIEW: Define "New Traditionalism."

ADAM RAFFERTY: Well, actually, I did not come up with the term "new traditionalism," but I think it means to describe a blend of old and new. In my case, it would be a blend of an older jazz approach and sound with something new, in terms of melody or original tunes. The difference in my case (hopefully) would be that it is not a contrived blend, but a rather natural one. I grew up playing blues and rock and have put myself under the wing and guidance of a jazz master pianist and composer, Mike Longo. Now I am finally stepping back into some grooves and musical feels that almost step back into my instincts as a rock and funk player. But the "old" part and the "traditionalism" part come in when I play with the touch and time concept of jazz.

JAZZREVIEW: What was it with Longo's performance that made you fall into the genre of jazz?

ADAM RAFFERTY: His sound. He had this magical ring on the piano that transcended the genre or the instrument. I knew instantly that the man simply knew something, and I had to find out.

JAZZREVIEW: How did you get the name "Swing Monster?"

ADAM RAFFERTY: You'll laugh at this one. Firstly, let's just say that I am pretty uncompromising on others and myself as far as swing goes. I expect the highest level of groove from others and myself at all times. Someone at a gig, here in New York I think, was showering me with compliments after a set and told me that I was a swing monster. Later, when I put together a quickie press package for a European tour, I included a line something like, "They call him the swing monster," and the European media ate it up. For years now, the radio and newspapers in Europe have been calling me the swing monster. Grrrrrr....swing monster is hungry.....grrrr!"

JAZZREVIEW: When did you decide to change direction in your style and what was the catalyst?

ADAM RAFFERTY: Well I have never been aware of changing style. That’s like asking a person who is aging when they decided to look older, kind of. Any change really came out of natural curiosity. As a kid I played rock. After hours of pentatonic scales with the amp on 11, I got curious about what was next. I felt I had exhausted the possibilities of what I could do. Then came classical guitar. From this I was exposed to tons of gorgeous music, but I needed some American/African groovy rhythm and found hip-hop and funk. From there I found that I craved more harmony and melody and found R & B and fusion. Finally, I sensed a sophistication, finesse and poetic sense in jazz that I needed to investigate. Eventually, the phrasing of bebop ala Dizzy and Charlie Parker got me curious. I knew that they knew some real magic and I wanted to know it too.

JAZZREVIEW: How did "Three Souls" come to be?

ADAM RAFFERTY: I got my first taste of touring with a trio in 1996. With Danton Boller and Tomas Fujiwara, I found a chemistry that produced a sound. Original compositions helped even more in terms of just being us and not someone else! As we were about to leave for a tour, I made a very quick decision to record our band, so that fans could buy music by the group they had just heard.

JAZZREVIEW: Talk about the development of the trio and those personalities therein.

ADAM RAFFERTY: When musicians play together, they bond spiritually and physically. So this configuration with Danton and Tomas is and has been special to me. Danton is a total virtuoso and Tomas has a talent for swing on a very intuitive level. Both of these musicians have helped me grow and sweated out some strenuous road scenarios with me. I love them and thank them. We have had some wonderful, happy magic happen through music.

JAZZREVIEW: Many artists have been inspired by 9/11. Did the direction in the composition "America" come into focus at the start, or was it time that brought it to its completion?

ADAM RAFFERTY: This song came out of a 4-part harmony exercise. The physics of the music propelled a lyrical melody and I wrote wherever it went. I heard this hymn emerge and at the time, I was in a raw emotional state due to the tragedy of 9/11. I knew within the first 2 notes of the tune that it was a hymn and after it was finished, the title "America" came to me. So this was my way of fighting back: put love out there, touch whoever I can with this music, and say a prayer for the souls who passed to the next realm.

JAZZREVIEW: How was "Bootieology" inspired?

ADAM RAFFERTY: I originally had a funky arrangement on Miles Davis' composition, "So What." And in the tradition of Beboppers in ages past, I quickly wrote a melody to fit the changes, to not have to pay the publishing and sweat the licensing. As it turns out, I dig how it came out. It was a throwaway - the last quickie tune before we packed up at the recording session. It's funny, you never know which tunes will come out good!

JAZZREVIEW: What is the signature piece introducing your versatility?

ADAM RAFFERTY: Hmm, "Different Bread," I suppose. It is not a heavy swing tune. It is more Pat Methenyish, ECMish. It has more of a finger picking/acoustic kind of approach for the song itself and stretches over some nice harmonies in the solo. Usually I prefer the more groovy stuff, but I love the vibe this one creates. It's wonderful to pull this one out after a loud fast tune. It provides an excellent contrast.

JAZZREVIEW: Where do you want to go with your next project?

ADAM RAFFERTY: I don't know yet. I just have to wait and see, and let it spring forth. I am starting to mess around with some effect units, seeing where I can go with different sounds at the moment. Even if it simply churns up ideas, that's cool by me. I may go for a larger group. I may record again with my mentors. I may see what chemistry is possible with some other musicians. I really have no idea.

JAZZREVIEW: Which projects touched you most thus far?

ADAM RAFFERTY: They are all different snapshots in time. This one was particularly special because none of this music existed before. When I hear the tunes, it feels like they are my children. Corny, but true.

JAZZREVIEW: Talk about "Like No Place On Earth."

ADAM RAFFERTY: This melody started coming out in practice sessions and it brought out this very sweet feeling in my heart that was a spiritual vibe. It was like ‘Wow, this place right here is like no place on earth, it can't be gotten to in terms of location!’ Mike Longo, my teacher, has always told me that it's not so much what one plays, but the place they are coming from. He always told me that Dizzy lived in a high spiritual place all the time, and that the music that came out of him came from that place.

JAZZREVIEW: Most of your work seems to indicate you are a spiritual man. Is that a fair assumption and what part does it play in the scheme of composing?

ADAM RAFFERTY: I know I have been talking about a lot of spiritual stuff. We are all spiritual people whether we think it or not. As long as we are breathing, we are spiritual beings. In terms of playing and composing (and life,) I have found that everything is so much sweeter, so much more delectable, more joyous and more alive when it is devoid of ego when the higher self operates. Ego can be subtle and sneaky, which is why having a mentor is invaluable. Diz had no ego. He kept pulling Mike Longo into his mental, spiritual and psychic space. Many of us receive a similar bounty and lesson from a master like Mike.

JAZZREVIEW: Where do you see jazz three to six years from now? Rising Talent? Independent music?

ADAM RAFFERTY: Here is what I see. There is a whole movement that's been brewing for the last 15 - 20 years in jazz that people don't like, comedians that are not funny, angry hip hop, crappy rock 'n roll, unoriginal movie remakes and more. I see the people in the audience as hungry for something substantial to touch their hearts, and I see ‘the cream rising to the top,’ eventually. The PR machine and record companies will run out of money and steam. They'll soon realize it is easier and more productive to market music that people like rather than try to force them to like their product. Just let the people tell you what's good!

The ‘real thing’ is ever new, ever fresh. So when it comes along, it'll be the 21st century version of the real thing. And that real thing will have the timeless qualities of impeccable groove, melody and harmony - all held together by love!

Karl Stober is an international freelance columnist and broadcaster who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Karl can also be reached at 1-802-380-6065.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Adam Rafferty
  • Interview Date: 11/1/2004
  • Subtitle: Between Sets with Adam Rafferty
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