Patuxent Music CD-300
Of the great innovators and masters of five-string banjo, Eddie Adcock may be the most underappreciated. If for no other reason, Vintage Banjo Jam may be the most significant all-instrumental album in a long time. Listening widely, musically restless, and influenced by finger-style guitar playing, Adcock was taking his instrument in daring new directions when Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Pat Cloud were little kids and Bill Keith was developing his atom-splitting approach. Nowhere can this be heard more clearly, because his banjo dominates the proceedings, and the material proves diverse.
Adcock easily moves among and mixes elements of jazz, bluegrass, country, and pop. His distinctive brightness provides a unifying theme as he demonstrates his mastery moving from uptempo drive (“Los Dedos”) to slow and understated (“Theme from Exodus”). “Downtown Boogie” offers his rock chops, while “Banjo Bop” shows off his ability to fuse jazz and bluegrass. The sheer breadth of styles in combination with Adcock’s facility for delivering a certain consistency across them make this compelling listening and quick, too. The seven completely original compositions, his arrangements “Darling Nelly Bly” and “Camptown Races,” and four interpretations of compositions by others comprise the 13 selections, none longer than 2:40.
The biggest, maybe only, flaw is the title of the album. Although most done in a single take, these are demos recorded in Pete Kuykendall’s studio, not a living-room tape. In hopes of reaching a larger audience, Eddie, Pete on rhythm guitar, Country Gentlemen bassist Tom Gray, and jazz drummer Barry Worrell slammed out these genre-spanning tunes. Except for one break from Tom (who grew up hearing lots of traditional jazz), the other three artists remain in the background. This session was all about advancing Adcock’s career. Eddie sent the demos to Nashville sound stylist and guitar great Chet Atkins (ergo an interpretation of his signature tune, “Country Gentleman”), but the producer did not hear any commercial potential.
Recalling this 1963 session in 2016, Eddie and Martha located the tapes in Kuykendall’s vast collection. Any fan of the five-string or bluegrass music history owes a huge debt to Pete Kuykendall, Tom Mindte, and The Adcocks for making this music available. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.)AM