The sometimes heard, "those that can't do, teach" is a description not very fitting of the jazz world as hundreds of great musicians have become professors at some of the finest educational institutions around the world as well as teach privately at home. Many elder statesmen such as pianists Kenny Barron and Barry Harris as well as saxophonists Jackie McLean and Yusef Lateef not to mention trumpeters Donald Byrd and Bill Dixon (just to mention a few) have been teaching for many years. Many of the next generation of top jazz musicians have also taken up teaching including pianist guru Kenny Werner, saxophone wizards Joe Lovano and George Garzone as well as the very visible and always vocal Lincoln Center jazz director Wynton Marsalis.
Jazz musicians have often needed a second source of income and for many teaching always seemed like a good option to help them through the lean times. Of course many musicians truly love to teach and the sharing of their knowledge with others is an important part of their life, but for others its an economic necessity in the struggle to survive in the overcrowded jazz scene. Some begin teaching when they start a family and some just get tired of always being on the road and would rather stay at home. Some ageing musicians get frightened of living without health benefits and others would rather teach than play bad wedding gigs. There are many reasons for so many jazz players putting on the education hat. One of my favourite saxophonist/woodwind players who has taken up teaching as a second gig and definitely “can do” is the superb Adam Kolker.
I met Adam a number of years ago through drummer Jeff Williams who always seems to know the best players in New York. Since then Adam and I have played many absolutely incredible sessions together in my Brooklyn apartment as well as a number of gigs around town and even on a film project of Austrian virtuoso bassist/composer Peter Herbert (this was my first opportunity to hear Adam play bass clarinet, which is one of my favourite instruments). Adams main instruments though are tenor and soprano saxophones, which he plays with incredible virtuosity. His knowledge of harmony is very advanced but he never uses his knowledge inappropriately. Hes always concerned with being creative within the context of the music at hand. His sound is beautiful and full of emotion and his melodic invention is a wonder to hear. For the past five years or so Adams skills have been sought after by many great New York bands including the Village Vanguard Orchestra, one of Bobby Prevites bands called “Horse” as well as Maria Schneiders amazing Orchestra. Adam is also a great arranger and for the past five years he has been performing and arranging for Ray Barrettos band “New World Spirit”. Two recordings he did with Ray, Taboo on Concord and My Summertime on Blue Note received Grammy nominations for best Latin Jazz Album. Adam also has a recent recording of his own out on A Records called Crazybird which was in the top ten on the CMJ air play charts (definitely worth getting).
For those of you out there looking for a great saxophone, woodwind, theory, improvisation or arranging teacher Adam is now teaching up at the University of Massachusetts as well as at his home in Brooklyn. Or if you just want to hear some stunning saxophone playing go out and hear Adam play or pick up one of his CDs. I recommend it highly.