Barbara Adamson comes to jazz relatively late in her vocal career. Recorded while in her early 40's, Now Is the Time is her maiden album and despite a history of listening to and emulating such artists as Joni Mitchell, the Weather Report, and Prince, Adamson chose a musical potpourri of popular standards sprinkled with a couple of bop tunes. A heavy diet of familiar material notwithstanding, she refreshes them with interesting, modern arrangements. They are ordered in a way that is intended to emphasize contrast in delivery and arrangements. She has also wisely chosen stellar musicians to join her on her debut, such as the accomplished pianist and accompanist Marshall Otwell, who was with Carmen McRae for eight years, and bassist Stan Poplin, who has worked with James Moody and Dave Brubeck. The proceedings are buoyed by guests Fred Berry (of Louis Bellson fame) on trumpet/flugelhorn, Paul Contos on flute, and Donny McCaslin on tenor saxophone. The Oscar Hammerstein and Sigmund Romberg "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" has been waxed by many vocalists, jazz and popular alike, yet Adamson's medium tempo, sensually anticipatory rendition needn't take a back seat to any version. Contos' swinging flute helps to make this tune one of the album's finer musical moments. This piece contrasts nicely with "I Thought about You" where Adamson is sustained by Fred Berry's muted, soulful trumpet. There's more contrast with Adamson's approach to "Bye Bye Blackbird," introduced with spooky chords and helped along by Stan Poplin's bowed bass. She then takes this number to a brighter midtempo with Steve Robertson's drums assuming the role as lead instrumentalist. Poplin returns with plucked bass in a duet with Robertson to wrap things up. It's an intriguing, different arrangement, indeed. Marshall Otwell's pianistic skills come into play as he and Adamson engage in confident ballad playing on "It's Easy to Remember" and "You Go to My Head." Adamson foregoes the lyrics to Miles Davis' "Boplicity," choosing it instead as the sole tune where she exhibits her scatting skills, which are reminiscent of the inestimable Annie Ross. Like every other cut, this is a cooperative effort with instrumentalists chipping in to make this tune work -- flugelhorn by Fred Berry, piano by Otwell, and a stirring sax solo by McCaslin, with Poplin's bass holding everything and everybody together. The one complaint is that there's only 42 minutes of music, but when a performer must bear production expenses in order to get recorded, a paucity of playing time is understandable. With her talent, Adamson should hopefully get the attention of an indie label with strong distribution, if not a major record company. This album is highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan