PAUL ADAMS / ELIZABETH GEYER
Deeper Imaginings
(Lakefront Productions)

 

Renowned for his impeccable instrumental albums, composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Adams reunited with music collaborator Elizabeth Geyer for the 2019 CD release of Deeper Imaginings. On the long-awaited follow-up to the duo’s 2015 album Imaginings, these two gifted musicians pick up from their last album left off. Although considered under the instrumental New Age banner, on the eleven track Deeper Imaginings, Paul and Elizabeth have crafted a modern day music classic that also brings in elements of World Music, Americana, Native American music along with elements of free jazz and even experimental progressive rock. Commenting on the variety of sounds on what is ostensibly being called a New Age album, Paul says, “I wanted the instrumentation to be what one is not used to hearing together. For example dobro, Native American flute, electric sitar, Bansuri flute... This integration included a number of the instruments that were made by myself when I was a luthier, including guitar, electric sitar and dulcimer. Their unique timbre helped to allow the work to gel on its own coloration.” As mentioned, Paul’s talented collaborator here, Elizabeth Geyer is a most creative jazz musician from Australia. Bringing her skills on piano, vocals and flugelhorn to the sound of Deeper Imaginings, Ms. Geyer is a perfect collaborator to expand upon Paul’s wide-ranging sonic approach. Paul’s most recent release, 2019’s Deeper Imaginings is being compared to albums by Peter Gabriel, Paul Winter and Ravi Shankar. There is a definite ethereal and meditative nature to the Deeper Imaginings album and there’s also a wide range of gifted musicians to aid Paul and Elizabeth, including a surprising contribution on a pair of tracks, from fabled U.K. native / now U.S. based, founding Gentle Giant guitarist Gary Green along with Alp Akmaz on Balabon (Duduk), India’s Pravin Godkhindi (Bansuri flute) and David Hoffman, a former trumpet soloist for Ray Charles. After playing the album a good number of times, one thing that stands out is the organic feel of the overall sound on Deeper Imaginings. Some musicologists have spoken about the album’s approach of Eastern music meeting Western music and there is a lot of truth about that. The mix of Paul’s electric sitar, guitars, occasional spoken word poetry and Native American flutes with Ms. Geyer’s deeply resonant flugelhorn and elegant piano sounds, colored by her background in both jazz and ethnomusicology, gives this captivating album an ambitious and cool sounding groove. Even though the album sound is very much steeped in the traditions of Native American music and meditative New Age as well late-night beat-jazz music, Deeper Imaginings is very much an album made in the Global Groove spirit of 21st century instrumental music. www.pauladams.org / www.elizabethgeyer.com

 


 


mwe3.com presents an interview with
PAUL ADAMS


mwe3
: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now? What cities and states are among your favorites and have you done a lot of traveling overseas?

Paul Adams: I was raised on the largest sheltered boat harbor on the mighty Mississippi in Rock Island, Illinois. I haven’t traveled much except a hitch hike across the country years ago where in Death Valley I was mistaken for one of the Manson family members. That encouraged me to beat it back to the prairie. Did a trip to New Orleans recently where the Imaginings album won the ZMR best contemporary instrumental award. Loved New Orleans... Home of Louis Armstrong, my first musical hero! Ironically, my best friend David Hoffman who played a little horn on track 3 of Deeper Imaginings toured the world with Ray Charles for 13 years. He played everywhere with just about everyone. And Elizabeth Geyer who played piano and Flugelhorn on tracks 9 and 11 is from Australia and has toured extensively. Relative to that, I’m homebound. BUT, the music takes me places...

mwe3: Can you remember your first instruments and did you start playing and studying on guitars, keyboards or wind instruments first? What music and artists inspired you when you started out? Were you influenced by The Beatles or did you go right into jazz and World Music, even at a young age? Funny how The Beatles got so many into Indian music and even avant-garde music, although they were mostly known for their rock styles. Seems like everything was going on simultaneously back in the 1960s.

Paul Adams: As I said Louis Armstrong was the thing for me at my beginning. My dad played trumpet and I learned to play his horn as a teenager. Then came my interest in folk, progressive rock, classical and world music. The Beatles... yeah introduced everybody to Ravi Shankar. Then Ravi did that glorious album East Meets West with Yehudi Menuhin. I tended to like music that seemed to have depth rather than just the normal pop stuff. So… Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bluegrass, Eastern Indian, Gamelon, Pink Floyd, The Soft Machine, the Canterbury bands and jazz. I didn’t really understand newer free jazz forms but I knew those cats had the best chops. And even though I may not have completely understood Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” on an intellectual level, I loved the feel of it. I should also mention the Native American music. I have a huge collection of flutes that have been a great addition for me. How ironic that we tried our best to squash that culture, but it would not die. It has endured and even had a deep influence on present day therapies and spiritual searching. We do however need to address how our attack on that culture resulted in unemployment, poverty and addiction.

mwe3: I can’t believe it’s 25 years since you released Wonder Dancing On Global Bop, which I recall reviewing in either Time & A Word or Real News back in the early 1990s. Do you remember my review of that album? Are all your albums still on CD somewhere? I miss the early 1990s. We didn’t even have the internet and computers were first really taking off. Do you have any reflections on the way your music has progressed over the past 25 years?

Paul Adams: Well how nice of you to remember Wonder Dancing… and yes I remember the review. I had gotten a small label deal with my first release Various Waves. I then wanted to stretch out and go a bit farther than just New Age. I got connected with the wonderful John Golden, who ran Centerfield Productions in New York. They managed mostly jazz oriented groups like Stepps Ahead. I was still using reel to reel tape on that one. In making music, I now understand that it is an art form that demands consistency because of its close alignment with commerce. But, I like the idea of working like a painter… free choice of everything. Rather than making an album by committee, I did everything from the writing to composing, engineering and artwork. But, the business end was hard. It’s a weird balance of ego. I’ve always felt that our spiritual goal was to reduce the over-emphasis on the self. Yet, one has to broadcast and promote the music. It is quite a balancing act at times. This technology is a miracle that allows me to do all of it right in my home. That... is a miracle!

My friend Gary Green, who played a little guitar on Deeper Imaginings was in the very musically astute band Gentle Giant. He and I have spoken about what they could have done with this technology. Their music was pretty sophisticated, but done live. No sequencing etc. How ironic that so much of music today is so empty and boring despite the technology advancements?! And yes, I still have all my old albums on CD, and they are all available in the usual places. I even have hundreds of cassettes of early albums. I just can’t seem to throw them away.

mwe3: Tell us how you met Elizabeth Geyer and when did the chemistry between you and her really take off? Was Imaginings the first album you made with Elizabeth and how would you describe her approach to music writing and improvisation? She’s a great singer, pianist and horn player... What albums by Elizabeth do you recommend?

Paul Adams: It was a real contemporary integration of technology, whim, artistic direction, fate, and well, an unconventional personal relationship. It was a mashing of silicon and human feeling. I saw her my space page. I thought “oh, cute girl trumpet player.” I had a listen and it was the real deal. Had my trumpet playing friend Dave give a listen and he was also taken with her playing and composition. We then communicated through Facebook and found similar interests musically and spiritually. I sent her an album I did called In The Land Where I Come From, thinking she wouldn’t like it. But, she really dug its rather odd sense of vision. Surprisingly it became one of her favorite albums. She connected with its eccentricity and asked if I could help her record her next album. I nervously accepted the proposal. In the meantime I sent an email to Bruce Lundvall who I had just seen interviewed on ABC 20/20 show about Eva Cassidy, and his regret at not signing her to Blue Note records. I sent him Elizabeth's albums and he became her champion. Because of health issues he was reducing his role as president of Blue Note but wanted to be involved in her album The Bridge. He even dedicated a Blue Note Hour to her on Sirius Radio in the spring of 2013. To reduce stress during the recording of her album, we started improvising gentle New Age-y stuff. To both of our surprises, it turned out to be the album Imaginings. I knew it was a valid musical form, but being a jazzer she was concerned that it didn’t always offer a more sophisticated use of composition. She became very passionate about the exotic beauty that seemed to be unfolding in the process. Of course she was excited about the instrumentation such as electric sitar, oud, flutes and percussion. And hearing Pravin Godkhindi really impressed her. Pravin is unbelievable!

mwe3: How would you contrast the making of the 2015 Imaginings with 2019’s Deeper Imaginings? Are they connected in a musical sense and in what ways are they different as well and is there a contrast between the ways you worked with Elizabeth on the two albums?

Paul Adams: With Deeper Imaginings I wanted to go a bit farther. I didn’t want to alienate those who loved its gentle, ethnic beauty, but I wanted to add an element of jazz and poetry to push the artistic boundary a bit. I have a book of poetry almost completed and the verses seem to fall down on my head so easily and organically. I know it may be risky but to not use them seemed to be an unkindness or an ungratefulness to the source from which they came. And, I wanted to show of Elizabeth’s flugelhorn playing. Pravin Godkhindi and my friend David helped for continuity. Elizabeth was also much happier with her piano work on Deeper. She felt she was more “in” to the mood and vibe. The process was somewhat similar. I would work in the studio, mail tracks to Elizabeth in Australia, Pravin in India and make adjustments such as placement. In a few cases, manipulating some partial phrases in pitch and length using the technology we now have available. The key was that it be valid and organic feeling. I met Alp Akmaz on Instagram and heard him playing the balaban (Duduk). It’s always been one of my favorite instruments, so I had him play the melodic sequence on cut 11, "Hope For The Game". I became good friends with Gary Green and asked if he would just touch a few spaces on two songs. Gary has a unique sense of time and melody. For those familiar with gentle Giant they might hear familiar phrasing unique to Gary and GG. On "All That I Am", I hear his unusual timing of adding single line elements around 2:42 is interesting. He dances in an interesting way in and around the poetic lines. Very subtle and minimal, but very GG to my ear anyway.

mwe3: How did you meet David Hoffman and how many albums have you recorded with David? What did he bring to the Deeper Imaginings album?

Paul Adams: I first met David at a local comedy club where he would play trumpet and piano with the jazz bands appearing there. Although he was steeped deeply in the world of jazz, and I’m more of a folk, slightly undisciplined guy, we both had a rebels heart and saw things with similar sensibilities. We have a love for spirituality and comedy as well as irony with a slight dash of cynicism. David added a slight jazz feel to the track "Giggles and Grooves" on the Imaginings album. On Deeper Imaginings, Elizabeth held down more of the jazz improve tones and David added some very soft melodic lines as heard in the song "Acceptance". I manipulated the horn a bit to add a tad of the mystery. He spent 13 years with Ray Charles and even did some arranging. His playing is perhaps most fitting in a Be-Bop sense, but he also has a love of the unusual more evident in his own personal recordings!

mwe3: What was it like working with Indian flute player Pravin Godkhindi and Turkish Balaban player Alp Akmaz and how did you meet them? They really bring a sense of the exotic to Deeper Imaginings.

Paul Adams: I met Pravin on You Tube. I was looking to find a teacher on the bansuri flute and Pravin is one of the best. A real genius. He suggested doing a recording together so having him play of both Imaginings and Deeper Imaginings was a great pleasure. The key was to keep everything laid back…no stress and trusting in the “gods of improvisation” that it was just going to work. He invited David and I to one of his concerts touring America last summer and we were absolutely stunned. Perhaps one of the greatest live performances I have ever seen. And his 17 year old son was with him and was unbelievable! I mentioned earlier that I met Alp Akmaz on Instagram. I had a gut feeling that taking a risk and choosing him to play what I needed would work. And he had to trust me as well. I wanted to make everyone happy. I find that sending files back and forth, even with some who are strangers would work. It was limited in that they weren’t in the studio to take specific commands. But I integrated their sense of musicality and had a gut feeling I could make it work.

mwe3: You also studied ethnomusicology under Dr. Joel Maring. What inspired you to immerse yourself in that field? Can you explain the connection between music in a cultural context? I know it’s vast... Seems like the world is shrinking more and more these days!

Paul Adams: Frankly, I wanted a way to be involved in the arts but didn’t have the confidence to perform. I had a love of ethnic music and ethnomusicology was a great fit. I am a generalist. I love such a wide field of music and the exotic sounds and understanding the way various cultures used music as a tool for communication. And... besides being intellectually interesting, it “feels” good. Music is magic isn’t it? I mean the style of music can indicate geographic location, assist in communication and I believe it is a healing and comforting tool. There are so many examples whether it is in exercise, meditation and yoga, sleep. There’s a neurological connection to spirit. I could go on…

mwe3: How did the study of ethnomusicology inspire you build your own instruments? How long have you been a luthier and how many instruments have you built and/or designed and what instruments that you made are you most proud of?

Paul Adams: I was looking for an outlet. I wanted to connect with something in the arts. The first dulcimer I made was part of a class assignment and I caught the bug. I started building dulcimers and this lead to banjos and eventually electric and acoustic guitars. I loved working with wood and exploring the physics of sound. At university, I really caught the bug of the 5 string banjo. For a folk music class we were to perform on an instrument new to us and I chose the banjo. It was magical to see an instrument take shape. I’m not sure I can mention a favorite. I made an electric out of Padouk for Rick Zunigar when he was with Stevie Wonder and I loved that instrument. Thrilling to me is getting email from owners with photos of their instruments. I actually bought a few back. Two years ago I found a dulcimer I made in 1980 on Ebay and bought it back. It was made from old oak I scavenged from the Jefferson Hotel that was torn down here in Peoria. It was in mint condition and I’m so proud to have it back. I also made a guitar out of the same wood, but haven’t found it. Now and then I put out inquiry on social media.

mwe3: Your music is sometimes describes as being therapeutic. Tell us about working in the mental health world and what you found to be the connection between music and mental health. Would we all be even more crazy without music? What can you tell us about the spoken word elements you bring to your music? It sounds kind of “beat-jazz” in a way. Remember Ken Nordine?

Paul Adams: I do remember Ken Nordine, he was great. And yes, the spoken word jazz is something I love. Deeper Imaginings is the second time I have used this form. I wanted to keep this album within the New Age genre but felt the groove of the two songs on the album "All That I Am" and "Hope For The Game" didn’t distract. And yes, I did learn quite a lot working in mental health. I’ll offer one example as there’s a ton of material written on its efficacy. Gentle music without melodic content or structure can be very helpful for relaxation and sleep. However, I have seen some clients frightened by it. I found that some with a history of abuse were left feeling too alone with unresolved past issues. They described being alone in a vacuum. When I introduced melodic content with the gentle music, it helped by adding structure. They felt less alone and free floating. They felt more secure. And in some cases using melodies they are familiar with and that resonate positively with them is helpful. Like being comforted with a trusted friend. Of course instrumentation, volume, pulse can influence as well. The integration of using the sounds of nature is also helpful to include in the pallete.

mwe3: And can you tell us about having electric guitarist Gary Green playing guitar on the new album? I had forgotten Gary was living in the States these days. Did you play some of the Gentle Giant albums back in the day? Do you have a favorite Gentle Giant album and would you consider working further with Gary?

Paul Adams: I spoke about Gary earlier. But, I met Gary back in the 1980s. He moved to Princeton Illinois, his wife Judy’s hometown. They met when Giant was touring through Colorado. They live in a beautiful old Victorian home and like me are huge animal rescue fans. I loved Gentle Giant and had an appreciation for the complexity of their work. I got an email from Ant, a GG fan in England who had the drummer John Weathers work on a song called "You Haven’t A Chance". Which by the way is very good!. The plan is to use this as a skeletal structure, have Gary add guitar and send back to the UK. The ball is in our court now. I’m going to introduce Gary to a program called Reason so we can get the ball rolling. I hope over the coming months we can get this going.

mwe3: Did you record with the musicians live in the studio and how were the remote recordings handled? Can you contrast the way Deeper Imaginings was made with some of your pre-internet albums from the early 1990s?

Paul Adams: Of course, I used reel to reel tape initially and relied on doing quite a bit of bouncing of tracks. I evolved into digital tape and now use the PC for everything. I mentioned previously that Elizabeth and I recorded the main tracks here in Illinois, but to get the others involved we sent music files back and forth, either via email or dropbox. For Gary’s part, I recorded him at his studio using my laptop. I love working this way. It feels magical. And new! I mean how miraculous is that?

mwe3: Are you happy with the 21st century model of how music is heard and distributed? There seems to be a much greater access to music than ever before yet are all the bells and whistles somewhat of a distraction? The tendency these days is to replace CDs with digital files, which I still burn a CD of, yet on the other hand purists are going back to vinyl. The CD is what got me interesting in starting mwe3.com and also Time & A Word yet now it seems like the CD is under fire...

Paul Adams: I love CD’s and am sad to see them go away. But, I think it will be a medium that is here to stay, just not with the attention it once had. Digital files are the way music is distributed today. I feel a bit sad about this, yet there are positives. It is so much easier to send files to listeners or to radio. It’s also easier to release albums straight to CD Baby, Spotify and Pandora. I’m working on developing Spotify where I am slightly weak. Pandora is great as I have over 104 million streams there.

mwe3: What about 2020? A new decade means changes, right? How about plans for the new year and are you hopeful for the future?

Paul Adams: For me, I’m going to start releasing singer-songwriter material under the name PD Adams in order to not confuse my name associated with New Age. I think it’s a very strong side of me, but I was just too shy to release and record it. I’m now ready to do it. I think we are here to face certain fears and allow growth. It’s time to throw the door open and be true. I also want to continue to release New Age material as I love it, and I think it is helpful for those needing to have an alternative to the crazy energy in the world today. I want to continue to record with others in different parts of the world by sending files back and forth. That’s very, very exciting to me! Elizabeth and I would love to put together a tour of house concerts...



 

 
   
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