Arts Desk

NRBQ’s Terry Adams on His “Unbeatable Combination of Spirits”

Pianist Terry Adams is best known as a founder of the polymath rock and pop band NRBQ, which existed in various incarnations from 1966 to 2004 (and which received plenty of local radio play here in the '80s courtesy of Weasel on WHFS). Tomorrow, the now 62-year-old (and still wacky) Massachusetts-based keyboardist and his current band, the Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet, will be at Iota in Arlington. On their 2009 live album Crazy 8s, Adams, Chicago guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Pete Donnelly, and Austin drummer Conrad Choucroun, offered up straight-forward originals and covers (Big Joe Turner, Allen Toussaint, Johnny Cash) that reflected Adams’ interest in Beatles-esque pop, Memphis rockabilly, and Monk-inspired jazz.  Yes, some will recognize that NRBQ played a few of them, including “Imaginary Radio,” Adams’ tune about Sun Ra having a No. 1 song on the charts.

Adam’s offbeat humor and eclectic music taste have also been apparent in his production work with zydeco accordionist Boozoo Chavis, pro wrestler Captain Lou Albano, and Chuck Berry’s pianist Johnny Johnson.  He played keyboards on a Half Japanese release, and was responsible for the reissue of the off-key but beloved Philosophy of the World by The Shaggs.  His whimsical approach is apparent in his e-mailed responses to my questions:

Washington City Paper: How did you meet the Rock & Roll quartet members?

Terry Adams: I met all the members through the process of osmosis. I had been aware of them but slowly, began to realize the potential of this unbeatable combination of spirits. No one, I repeat, no one, can play like us!

WCP: Did you choose the songs (covers and originals) or have the others come up with a few?

TA: This band, some say, sounds like NRBQ. One of the reasons is because, like with NRBQ, I’m selecting the songs. We play the music for the moment, it can’t be pre-planned or thought out ahead of time. But I love ideas and contributions from the other members, and you’ll hear some live and on the new record.

WCP: How did the recent international touring go?

TA: We recently spent some time in Spain where we played the Azkena Rock Festival.
We had a few days off in Madrid. It was there that we all went to art museums to see what the paintings could do. At one of them I had to leave the others and take a taxi back to the hotel because the paintings were so powerful I could feel the pain. Later that night we recorded a song written by Scott Ligon which will be on our next album, which will be released in April. The rest of it is being recorded in the U.S.. It will be our first studio album.

WCP: Did you enjoy working with Jim Stephanson from D.C. on his recent CD?

Terry Adams:  Yes, I loved working on my friend Jim Stephanson’s great new CD Say Go. He’s a great songwriter and guitarist. We asked Jim to come down and play a few songs with us at the IOTA.

The Terry Adams Rock & Roll Quartet perform with opener Bobby Houck at 9 p.m. this Thursday at Iota Club and Café, 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. (703) 522-8340. $16.

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