Artist: Jim Adkins
Album: Soul Expression
Jim Adkins is a Virginia based contemporary jazz guitarist that is an exceptional musician and composer. His playing and tone are as smooth as it gets, reminding me of the legends in the genre like Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour. He has received several awards, the most notable being the 1999 Billboard Song Contest Award for 2nd place in the Jazz category for the song Wind Dancing. The song was featured on the Billboard Annual Song Contest CD Volume II. Wind Dancing was also selected out of more than 50,000 songs to be included on MP3s 103 of the Best Songs You've Never Heard Volume I which was distributed to over 250,000 music fans.
Soul Expression is a ten song set that is clearly focused on Jim's world class guitar skills. His compositions are mature and played with heart. One of the things I like about smooth jazz guitar playing is it is always easy on the ears. It has the hip chords, but not much dissonance. It tends to be in 4/4 time more often than not, making it a nice listen for people that aren't musicians, but still satisfying to the musician, because it takes restraint, knowledge and skill to deliver it well. Clearly Jim Adkins has done his homework on all fronts.
Soul Expression is a song that fits the title perfectly and was the right choice to be the title track. Jim's playing is inspiring with its patience, never leaving the space that makes the smooth jazz genre appealing to its fan base. He most definitely has fantastic chops, but keeps them at bay on this one for the sake of serving a great song with a wonderful vibe.
The very next track on the record, Passing Through was another one of my favorites. It is a stellar example of the depth of his playing, starting with his ability to write a memorable melody. His tone couldn't be more fitting for the music, which is a testament to his hands, not his amplifier. The playing is funky and filled with all the smooth jazz techniques that make the players within the genre interesting. The octaves that Wes Montgomery taught us all, double stops and fantastic phrasing. This cut is a tour de force in terms of contemporary jazz guitar playing!
Run It is a bluesy cut with Motown leanings that I really enjoyed. An upbeat song with horn pops and a perfect guitar run at 1:47 that sits like butter on warm bread. I don't often hear blues in smooth jazz players, with the exception of Larry Carlton. But after hearing this track I get the sense that Jim has listened to a fair share of blues as well. It's all in the bends and an occasional flat five that screams the fingerprints of three King's!
Soul Expression is an absolutely fantastic contemporary jazz release that features a guitar player that has all the tools in his bag. Jim Adkins reminds me of Chuck Loeb in the way that he can put all the complex and simple pieces together. It sounds like it has been effortlessly wrapped into a silky smooth blanket that showcases an exceptionally deep understanding of the genre and how the guitar sits and shines within it.
Check out the interview with Jim Adkins as well...
Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.
I began playing guitar in my early teens and since that time I have played in several bands. We played pop, rock, blues, gospel and country. Some bands I played in during my earlier years liked to write and record original music, so writing and recording began early for me.
I think it was my late twenties or early thirties when I became interested in instrumental music, mainly contemporary and smooth jazz. I began studying Jazz at that time but I've always leaned toward the pocket music which I found in contemporary and smooth jazz. I have been recording in this genre ever since and have released seven CD's.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Growing up it was bands like The Doobie Brothers, Eagles, Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. All of these groups had great guitar players and we all know their names! Later when I developed an interest in contemporary jazz, I listened to Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Peter White and many more. While there are many non musical influences in my life, I would have to say my parents, wife and family have had the most.
What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?
Many come to mind but I would have to say "Machine Head" by Deep Purple. One of the first rock songs I learned was "Smoke on The Water". While the riff was fairly easy, I found the solo challenging to learn and play, but I was determined to do it note for note. Then I started working on the tune "Lazy" from that album and thought Wow! Ritchie Blackmore's playing on that song is fantastic! I would say this album taught me the patience and discipline I needed to become a
What song do you remember most from your childhood?
"Sweet Caroline"... Did I really just say that?
What's your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?
Placing second in The "Billboard Annual Song Contest" in Jazz was nice but, I would have to say expressing my musical ideas then recording them and sharing with the world is pretty special. It's always nice to hear my songs on the radio and have people purchase my music.
What inspires you to write the music you write? What made you want to play the instrument you play?
Musically, it's my love for melody and groove. I can also be inspired by other artists and songs.
Inspiration to write about would include places I have been, people I have met, My relationships with God, family and friends and more.
The reason I chose guitar was for the sound and versatility of the instrument and of course all the great amps, pedals etc.
Do you have any anxiety about performing live? Do you like to perform or do you prefer to record in a studio?
Yes, to this day there is a certain amount of anxiety when I perform but I think it's fairly normal for a lot of musicians. I played mostly as a side man up until I became a Smooth Jazz Artist. Being the front man adds pressure for me to engage the audience and keep them entertained but it's all part of the process and can be very gratifying. The studio is probably what I like the most. The creative part of writing and recording has always giving me a great feeling of excitement and satisfaction.
What are your interests outside of music?
My primary living has been in building new residential homes and real estate investing. My wife and I have been in business for 38 years. We also likevto travel, spend time at the Outer Banks and hang out with the kids and grand kids.
What is the best way to stay updated on current news; gigs, releases, etc.
My website at www.jimadkinsmusic.com