Tenor and soprano saxophonist, clarinetist, and flutist Adam Kolker has been involved in contemporary jazz since the mid-'90s, and has proven himself a capable leader and sideman. Born in Manhattan and raised in Philadelphia, Kolker earned his B.A. degree at the University of Miami-Florida and an M.A. at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He was a member of musical ensembles supporting various Broadway shows both on tour and in New York City, where he eventually moved in 1989.
Kolker into the limelight was his fruitful time as a member of Ray Barretto's New World Spirit Latin jazz combos from 1994 through 2002, at a time when this band was nominated for two Grammys. Recordings with Barretto include the 1995 album My Summertime; the 1997 recording Contact! for Blue Note; Barretto's crowning achievement, Portraits in Jazz and Clave for the RCA Victor group in 1999; and the 2000 CD Trancedance for the Circular Moves label. He has also appeared with such artists as Orange Then Blue, the Pittsburgh Collective, Gunther Schuller, the Vanguard Jazz and Maria Schneider Orchestras, Kenny Wheeler, Bruce Barth, Rick Margitza, Luciana Souza, Judi Silvano, David Berkman, John Hebert, Peter Herborn, Ben Sher, Billy Hart, Brian Ales, Allan Chase, Bobby Previte, Bruce Saunders, Frank Carlberg, Matt Haimovitz, Marc Cohn, Lucia Pulido, and others.
Kolker's initial effort, Crazy Bird from 1999 on Challenge/A Records, included Tim Hagans, Kevin Hays, Jeff Ballard, and Doug Weiss. Two follow-ups on the Satchmo label included Meditaciones from 2003 (co-led by Catalonian drummer Xavi Maureta) and Sultanic Verses in 2004, which included Barretto. The critically acclaimed 2008 recording Flag Day from the Sunnyside label featured John Abercrombie and Paul Motian. A collective effort, Change of Time for the Omnitone label, concentrated on Béla Bartók's "Mikrokosmos." From 1999 to 2007, Kolker worked full-time on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts, and in 2008 was a member of the pit orchestra for the stage play Gypsy. In 2011, he paired with guitarist Abercrombie for Reflections, followed in 2014 by the quartet album And Them featuring trumpeter Scott Wendholt. In 2017, Kolker delivered the trio effort Beckon with guitarist Steve Cardenas and drummer Billy Mintz.