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August 19, 2015




NRBQ founder takes jazz icon Thelonious Monk’s music
to some new and exciting places

NEW YORK, NY — Pianist/founder of NRBQ Terry Adams chose to take a long and winding path to the recording of Talk Thelonious: NRBQ+ plays Terry Adams arrangements of Thelonious Monk Songs, his new album of compositions by jazz legend Thelonious Monk to be released on November 27, 2015 as a two-LP set onEuclid Records and a CD on Clang! via Burnside Distribution. “I have so much respect for him,” he told writer Craig Harris. “I spent a lot of time thinking about those songs, wanting to do them with the right spirit, but also make them sound different from what people have heard before.”

In Adams’ case, “a lot of time” means nearly 50 years.

“The first Monk song I heard was when I was about 14 — it was ‘Off Minor’ by his septet,” says Adams. “I had begun to figure out some things about music I was hearing, such as the I, IV or V chord and then beyond. But after hearing Monk, suddenly I knew nothing. It was a great mystery that sounded wonderful.” Adams recalls with a smile that “I wrote him a letter immediately asking for the chords to the bridge of ‘Off Minor,’ but he didn't answer me.”

When Adams first came to New York in 1967 and over the next few years, he caught so many Monk performances that the legendary jazz patroness and close friend of Thelonious, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, introduced herself, invited him to come as often as he liked and to be her guest. Over the years the Baroness and Adams maintained their friendship and at one point, after the pianist’s death, she even sent him a totally unexpected gift — one of Monk’s famous hats. “I was surprised and very touched by that,” says Adams.

Of the almost-50-year gestation period between hearing Monk and recording Talk Thelonious , Adams says, “ I think it wasn’t until now that I was ready to do it. Before, it was ‘the mountain.’ In the 1980s I had the opportunity, because of the Hal Willner Monk tribute album ( That’s the Way I Feel Now), to record two songs, which was fun, and NRBQ has always performed Monk tunes, but that’s all I could’ve been comfortable with. I was too inside it or close to it or something. I had to go through it instead of over or around it.”

One reason for Adams’ caution was the disparity between most other musicians’ versions of the Monk canon and the composer’s original performances. Barry Farrell once wrote in Time magazine that “Monk’s inimitable piano style is such an integral part of the music he has written that few jazz pianists have much luck with even the Monk tunes that have become part of the standard jazz repertoire.”
Adams says: “There's an air about Monk’s music that I feel should go beyond the written parts. You can hear it on his performances even when he's not playing. Some people don't approach it that way. This music is in a special place and the performer of it should be too.”

Adams recalls, “When I started doing my arrangements for Talk Thelonious , I remembered all the kindness that Monk and the Baroness had shown me over the years and I realized that it was something I was supposed to do. I owed it to her and to Thelonious.”

For Adams it made perfect sense that in performing and recording his arrangements of Monk’s music, he would draw upon the musicians he knows the best and trusts the most: the members of Adams’ own band, NRBQ (Scott Ligon, electric guitar, Hammond organ and percussion; Pete Donnelly,electric bass; and Conrad Choucroun, drums), along with several other musicians they’ve worked with often: Jim Hoke (alto saxophone, flute, chromatic harmonica and pedal steel guitar), Klem Klimek (tenor and alto saxophone) and Pete Toigo (acoustic bass).

Most of Talk Thelonious is taken from a 2012 concert in Burlington, Vermont. Adams says, “ I was surprised when I heard the playback. The band rehearsed for a couple of nights and only had this one shot at it. They’re great musicians and eager to learn. I know of no other band that could have done it.”

Like Monk’s own performances, the music on Talk Thelonious is both physical and cerebral, simultaneously simple and complex, and full of delightful surprises. It stays true to the melodic and harmonic genius of the composer while presenting the listener with some new and exciting sonic vistas.

“Reflections” starts with a stately pipe organ before giving way to a piano, acoustic bass and drum trio. “Hornin’ In” is a rollicking, kinetic performance led, appropriately enough, by two alto saxophones. “Monk’s Mood” is an understated but stunning musical exploration. “That Old Man” features a childlike ocarina and a playful, buoyant piano. “Straight No Chaser” kicks off with a stride piano that morphs into a jaunty two-step with a jazzy pedal steel guitar and a countrified electric guitar solo. And the album’s tour de force, “Ruby, My Dear,” (the one studio track) has a triplet-driven rhythm section and a tremolo electric guitar stating the melody, embellished sparingly by horns, strings, chromatic harmonica, flutes and accordion.

“Ruby” is “something I’ve been working on since I was a teenager,” says Adams.

As Adams once told The Vinyl District about Thelonious Monk, “Perseverance, sticking with what you believe in was a major lesson from him. If you love the music, then you have to obey what you learn.”

Terry Adams formed NRBQ in 1966 with the express desire of having a band that “can play any song it wants, regardless of what that style is.” Their self-titled first album on Columbia Records from 1969 contains songs that range from Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” all the way to Sun Ra’s “Rocket #9.” Over the years, throughout countless live performance and many well-regarded recordings, NRBQ has succeeded admirably in espousing Adams’ mission statement.

Adams and NRBQ have made music with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins, country music songbird Skeeter Davis, punk rock icon Iggy Pop, rock and roll founder Chuck Berry, and wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano, among others. As a testament to their diversity, in 1986 the band performed at venues as varied as the Berlin Jazz Festival, the New York Folk Festival and Nashville’s historic Grand Ole Opry. NRBQ’s fans include Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, John Sebastian and members of R.E.M. and the Replacements. Led by the tireless Adams, NRBQ continues to make exciting, creative, electric and eclectic music in the only way they know how: fearlessly and giving 100% of themselves.

The Cleveland Scene recently said that “NRBQ may exist outside of time and space … It’s still making music that is as impossibly infectious as ever.” And the Minneapolis Star-Tribune added: “Adams hasn’t just persevered. He’s roared back, triumphed … NRBQ is still liable to play anything. Roaring rockabilly, transcendent pop-rock, roadhouse blues, avant jazz — you name it.”

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Listen to a track ("Hornin') via PopMatters now.
Listen to a track ("Reflections") via Elmore now.


April 15, 2014


“We’ve got something that no one else has,” says founder Terry Adams

NEW YORK, N.Y. — It was January 1966 when pianist Terry Adams started NRBQ in his Louisville, KY home. Adams soon met guitarist Steve Ferguson while both were still teenagers, and that meeting was the catalyst to take the show on the road — out of the house and onto the stage. Says Adams, “I remember saying, ‘I’m going to have a band that doesn’t have fines for not wearing boots, and doesn’t have to play certain songs to please audiences, and can play any song it wants, whenever it wants, regardless of what that style is.’ I was really passionate about that and I told Steve, and he agreed with me, that he would like to be in a band that was like that.”

NRBQ released its self-titled debut album for Columbia Records in 1969. Forty-five years later, after more than 20 studio albums, more than a dozen live albums and numerous compilations, not to mention countless, and legendary, live performances around the world, NRBQ will release a new studio album, Brass Tacks, on June 17, 2014. Recorded with Terry Adams on keyboards and vocals, Scott Ligon on guitar and vocals, Conrad Choucroun on drums (Ligon and Choucroun have been playing with Adams for seven years) and Casey McDonough (who joined the Q in 2012) on bass and vocals, Brass Tacks is brimming with swinging rhythms, sweet vocals, and sparkling sound. The dozen new tunes, served up in the unique Q mix of pop, rock, jazz, country, and more — ”It’s just NRBQ music,” says Adams — continues the trend of recent years, music that’s among the best that’s been recorded over a very long career. The songs are upbeat, powerful, happy, and filled with love.

Band members have changed over NRBQ’s four decades-plus career but one constant has always been strong songwriting. Brass Tacks features ten original songs — four from Adams, two each from Ligon and McDonough, and two collaborations among the three. There’s a contribution from Nashville musician and occasional member of the Whole Wheat Horns (the band’s touring horn section) Jim Hoke. And of course, there is always one unexpected offering from left field. This time it’s an unabashedly heartfelt NRBQ version of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein song “Getting To Know You.”

Adams says, “I hear a song and know that it has some importance in my life, that it’s right for the band. Sometimes it takes a long time to get the arrangement right in my head. I’ve had “Getting To Know You” in the back of my mind for ten or fifteen years. I finally found the right time to do it. The songs that I put into the band, whether it’s “I Got A Rocket In My Pocket” or “Get Rhythm” or “Getting To Know You,” they’re as important to NRBQ as the songs I write.”

As for the originals, Ligon’s lead-off track “Waitin’ On My Sweetie Pie” and the acoustic “It’ll Be Alright,” and McDonough’s “Can’t Wait To Kiss You” and “Fightin’ Back,” slide perfectly into the NRBQ songbook. So do the collaborations between band members: the album’s closer “Love This Love We Got” from all three, and the Adams-Ligon track “I’m Not Here,” a plea to find some peace and quiet from the demands of the world. The Adams track “Sit In My Lap” is a perfect pop song, and his comments on credit card reliance on “Greetings From Delaware” are delivered with music that’s reminiscent of At Yankee Stadium-era NRBQ. The beautiful “Places Far Away,” with its Sun Ra-esque avant jazz feel, was written by Adams at the age of fifteen.

Adams has always written great songs about driving and cars (“Me and the Boys,” “Get That Gasoline,” “Little Floater”) and “This Flat Tire” is no exception. On the surface, it’s about making sure all your tires have air so all the wheels are rolling. “It’s good to stop every now and then to see if anything’s slowing you down,” Adams says.

As for Ligon, Choucroun, and McDonough, each has his unique sound, but when they’re together with Adams, on stage and on record, the sound and spirit is undeniably NRBQ. How does that work?

“Duke Ellington said ‘jazz is the music of personalities,’” says Adams. “The same is true about NRBQ’s music. The sound comes from the personalities and the way the music is played. There’s a specific way that NRBQ music is meant to be played. That’s the sound.”

“Scott and Conrad and Casey are genuine musicians who have their priorities in order. I play best with guys who like to learn and improve their art. The people with musical instruments in their hands but not in their hearts don’t work well with me. Some understand it instantly and others are curious enough to want in on it.”

“For some people, like Tom Ardolino (former NRBQ drummer and Adams’ closest friend, who passed away in 2012) and Scott Ligon, there were no auditions, no tryouts. I can tell when we meet that there’s an understanding and it will work out.”

Chicago multi-instrumentalist Ligon, raves the Nashville Scene, is “an unqualified badass — he echoes Adams’ gift for balancing melody with dissonance.” Of a live performance the Minneapolis Tribune said, “Guitarist Scott Ligon can deliver tender vocals one moment, red-hot country licks the next.” Radio Americana declared, “Scott Ligon gets my vote for MVP of the last couple of years for his role in getting the world’s greatest band out on the road and fired up.”

Ligon first started listening to NRBQ in the ’80s. He remembers 1988 and the first time he saw them live: “I just had this crazy thing happen to me that night. It was just so revealing. And so moving ... I really felt like I was supposed to be in that band. I felt, ‘This is what I’ve been talking about. This approach and this language, I understand it.’ And I knew it immediately.”

“I also had this strange connection with Terry. He seemed like someone that I knew. Did you ever see somebody and think, ‘I have to know this person?’ Well, I kind of felt that way about Terry from the very beginning and I’m glad that I followed my instincts, because I ended up being right. I felt at one point in my life, that ‘I have to either completely distinguish myself from this, or I have to be in this band.’ The fact that it’s turned out the way that it has ... I don’t think there’s any mistake in it. None of this is an accident.”

Drummer Choucroun has played with Bob Schneider, The Damnations, and Kelly Willis, among many others. Both Adams and Ardolino admired his drumming for years, and his style and feel make him the perfect anchor for NRBQ. McDonough may be the newest member, but after years of performing with Ligon in Chicago bands, his entry into NRBQ in the fall of 2012 was seamless. He’s an outstanding bass player and his vocal harmonies have brought an added luster to the band, in the studio and on stage.

As with anyone whose career has lasted for decades, Adams has experienced his share of change and upheaval. In addition to personnel changes, he’s lost a number of close friends in the past few years (Ardolino, Steve Ferguson, trombonist Tyrone Hill, T-Bone Wolk among them), has gone through serious health challenges, and has weathered indifference from the music industry. How does NRBQ retain its spirit and optimism? Why, in fact, does the spirit and optimism increase? How does the sound stay so authentic and unique?

Adams says, “I haven’t changed my feelings about life, music and culture. It doesn’t diminish. It gets stronger. Life is richer and there’s more reason to make better music and more reason to move people as you realize the value of life. As for the sound, my teenage culture has been in the music since I started the band. Sun Ra and the Three Stooges, it all makes sense to me. It’s why I got Captain Lou involved with the band — it just makes sense to me. It comes from my real self, it’s not copied from someone else. This stuff comes from inside.”

“If you’re lucky enough to get paid to make sound, then you better put everything you have into it, or you should be doing something else. It has to be the best that you have and make the most difference. The need for this music is still great, perhaps even greater than it was in the beginning. We’ve got something that no one else has. I know it and you know it.”

Terry Adams has never been one to explain the meaning of album titles, but what does Brass Tacks mean to him? “It means … it’s about the music. For NRBQ, it’s all about the music. Let’s let the music do the talking.”

The new CD will be released in stores on June 17. More information is available at,, and at NRBQ Headquarters on Facebook.

Q fans in high places concur:

“NRBQ are never far away from me. They’re always on my playlist, and I’m happy to hear this new record, it sounds great. What I love about the Q is they’re just so MUSICAL. And so rockin.’ There’s no other band like ’em.” —Ian McLagan

“What a KILLER record! Right up there with the Q’s best! Production, arrangements, performances and songs … just knocks me OUT!” —Bonnie Raitt

“NRBQ is the Mount Olympus of rock and roll — and this new record is another gem, maybe even their best. As I was listening to it, I was finally able to articulate what it is about NRBQ that I love so much — they make me so damn happy! For the last four decades, NRBQ in all its configurations consistently discovers real musical light in the darkest of souls. They are a national treasure and you owe it to yourself to listen and experience the Q.” —Hal Willner

“NRBQ’s zest and musicianship are incomparable and incomprehensible.” —Ted Nelson, The Xanadu Project

“A perfect combination of genius and joy. I love NRBQ.” —Had Fair

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June 1, 2011


NRBQ is a living, breathing, ongoing sound, says Adams as he begins historic band's next chapter.

NEW YORK, N.Y. Terry Adams, visionary, driving force, and untamed genius of the keyboards for the great American band NRBQ since its inception more than 40 years ago, resumes his life's work with the release of a new studio album, Keep This Love Goin' by NRBQ, due out July 19, 2011. Recorded with the band he formed in 2007, Scott Ligon on guitar and vocals, Pete Donnelly on bass and vocals, and Conrad Choucroun on drums, formerly known as The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet. Keep This Love Goin' features 12 unforgettable songs, from the opener Boozoo and Leona, inspired by Adams' relationship with the great zydeco musician Boozoo Chavis and his wife (Adams produced three albums for and performed with Chavis), to the instrumental closer Red's Piano, a tune written by Piano Red and recorded in one take in that unmistakable NRBQ style. Adams learned the song from Red himself, when the Atlanta legend visited him at his upstate New York home in the 1970s.

In between is the unique Q mix of rock, pop and jazz, and of course no album of theirs would be complete without a classic Adams twist here, an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, done as a country tune called In Every Dream. Original compositions from Adams, Ligon, and Donnelly, written separately and together, and stellar playing throughout make for a true band effort. Former NRBQ bandmate Tom Ardolino provided the front cover art (and sits in on drums on two tracks).

I found musicians who not only understand NRBQ's past and traditions but who are open to future impossibilities, says Adams. Its important that their reason for being musicians in the first place is real.

Chicago's Scott Ligon is on guitar and vocals. The multi-instrumentalist is, says the Nashville Scene, an unqualified badass he echoes Adams gift for balancing melody with dissonance.Philadelphia-based Pete Donnelly, also a member of the Figgs, handles bass and vocals. And from Austin comes drummer Conrad Choucroun, who has played with numerous Texas bands and musicians (Bob Schneider, Kelly Willis, the Damnations, among others).

Adams announced in March 2011 the return of the NRBQ name along with the release of the new album. In the years since 2004, when the most recent Q line-up last appeared regularly onstage, Adams has been steadily rebuilding his health after a cancer diagnosis, and rebuilding the band after the other members decided to form their own band (Joey and Johnny Spampinato) or retire from the road (Tom Ardolino).

Why did he initially call his band the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet in 2007 instead of NRBQ?

I didn't want to call the band NRBQ right away, says Adams because I didnt want Scott, Pete, and Conrad subjected to unfair comparisons. It was clear in the spring of 2009 that we had it onstage, but I wanted to wait until we had more road experience and a new studio album with new songs that we wrote and recorded together. You can hear it on Keep This Love Goin'. The time is right.

I'm finally free to let go and move NRBQ forward. That's what I've been doing since I was 18. With all due respect to the past, NRBQ is a living, breathing, ongoing sound. I never intended it to ever become a trip down memory lane.

The first weekend of April found the band onstage for their first live shows, now billed as the New NRBQ. Said the Albany Times-Union,. . . the current incarnation lived up to the legacy. They reclaimed not only the vast NRBQ catalog of songs and loose-as-a-goose sound, but also the band's wildly unpredictable spirit on stage . . . their willingness to step way out on a limb has always been one of NRBQ's most endearing qualities, and in the contemporary world of pre-packaged, cookie-cutter pop stars, it's sure great to have them back. The Schenectady Gazette added, the re-branded NRBQ has developed an impressive depth of mutual intuition so that even odd detours took on unanimous glee Sunday. They felt so good and they made everyone feel good too.

The new CD is now available at, and will be released in stores in June. Also visit

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