Adam Shulman has been a staple of the San Francisco Jazz scene since he moved to the city in 2002. Before the move, Adam was a student at UC Santa Cruz where he studied with the great Smith Dobson and the trumpeter/arranger Ray Brown. He received his degree in classical performance under the tutelage of the Russian pianist Maria Ezerova. Currently, Adam plays regularly with Marcus Shelby in large and small group contexts and with Anton Schwartz mostly in a trio setting. He can also be seen as a sideman with countless bay area musicians and vocalists such as John Wittala, Vince Lateano, Kitty Margolis, Andrew Speight, Dayna Stephens, Ian Cary, and Mike Zilber. Adam has played as a sideman with internationally renowned artists Stefon Harris, Willie Jones III, Miguel Zenon, Luciana Souza, Paula West, Bobby Hutcherson and with the Glen Miller Orchestra. About Strays: I was first attracted to Strayhorn's music while I was playing his music in a big band setting. These were his tunes orchestrated for the Duke Ellington Jazz Orchestra. I was struck by the density and inventiveness of harmony that is akin to classical music. As a writer, Strayhorn gets away from the usual and predictable and always challenges the ear. Many of his melodies use altered extensions such as flat 9 sharp 9 flat 13 and sharp 11 so that the complexity of the harmony is driven by the melody. One of the aspects of his genius lies in his ability to do this while crafting elegant, memorable melodies that do not seem angular or heady despite their note content. As an improviser, Billy Strayhorn tunes provide quite a challenge. First, his harmonic pallete is wider than most of the chords one normally sees as a jazz musician. Second, as I mentioned before, the harmony is very dense so the chords are changing very fast. Third, is trying to maintain the level of sophistication and concision that are present in his melodies in one's improvised lines. This last one is perhaps the most difficult because it involves the balance of the intellect with the heart. Strayhorn's music is both incredibly smart and incredibly soulful at the same time. You hear a lot of complexity and cleverness but it's tinged with a bit of the blues and a large dose of romance. When you listen to his music you can experience it both with your brain and with your heart, which is something I believe we as jazz musicians all strive for in our music. One of the reasons I wanted to do a tribute to Billy Strayhorn's music was because of his underdog status. He was overshadowed by Duke Ellington for most of his career and though being a part of Duke's organization helped him get his music out into the world, I think he's only now getting the credit and praise he deserves. More broadly, there are so many incredible musicians throughout the history of jazz that don't get the attention and credit they deserve because they are crowded out by the big personalities. I would like in some way to celebrate those who quietly and consistantly create great music with no thought of fame and notoriety; the journeymen who do it because they love it and are lost to history. Billy Strayhorn obviously will not be lost to history but I think he exemplifies the spirit of the craftsperson whose work is what stands for who they are and not the edifice of their personality.
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