Patrick Adams: The Invisible Dance Master

PATRICK ADAMS rides by night as SINE, Cloud One, the Universal Robot Band and Musique. He’s a young New Yorker with ineffable self-confidence and a pragmatism that comes of long hitches in the city’s music business trenches.

“When I was 15 some fellows in the neighbourhood and I started a band called the Sparks, and we were together for a week when we auditioned for the movie Up The Down Staircase, and we got the part of the High School band. From that we were signed to MGM Records; we had one record out, that did nothing, and played around the country for about two years. At that point I started to get more into my writing and arranging. Over the next two years I worked in a small production company in New York, rehearsing acts, writing songs and doing small arrangements.

“When I was 19, I discovered Black Ivory, and the first record we did, ‘Don’t Turn Around’, hit the pop charts, went Top Three on R&B. I wrote, arranged and produced that. The company, Perception-Today Records, had me doing television commercials, and at that point they offered me a gig as A&R director, so at age 20 I became A&R director for Perception Records.

“Over the next four years, Black Ivory had six hit records. This went on ’til 1974, and at that time I left Perception. I worked with Astrud Gilberto, Bobby Rydell, Dizzy Gillespie. I was doing like 90 per cent of the producing for the label, and all the arrangements. I supervised the first Fatback Band session for Perception. After that Bill Curtis produced the group.”

His experience as a company man gives Adams, now an independent, useful insights on the people he’s trying to win over.

After Black Ivory, Adams’ name first drew attention as Greg Carmichael’s arranger. Carmichael operates the New York indie disco label Red Greg, which has released dancefloor hits on Sammy Gordon (‘Making Love’), Bumble Bee Unlimited (‘Love Bug’, ‘Everybody Dance’), Universal Robot Band (‘Dance And Shake Your Tambourine,’ ‘Freak With Me’). Adams played all the instruments save drums and congas on most of those cuts.

“Back in ’75 I decided I was going to start my own production company. Greg lent me $1200, and towards the end of ’75, we had the idea to do ‘Making Love’. I’m still producing things with him for the label ’cause I want to see him happen. Greg is great at concepts, and I do most of the music.”

Adams has also found considerable work as a freelance arranger. He did Tony Sylvester’s unsuccessful solo album, recorded after the break-up of the Main Ingredient. He’s arranged albums for RCA rock ‘n’ roller Ruth Copeland, Sgt Pepper star Sandy Farina, Gary Toms Empire, and Ace Spectrum (Just Like In The Movies, and half the charts for Low Rent Rendezvous). He also did the string arrangement for Gladys Knight’s version of ‘The Way We Were’.

The sound for which Adams is known, the sound of SINE, Cloud One and Universal Robot Band, is light and fluid, made up of simple riffs and jazzy changes. Most of the material is improvised (the rhythm tracks for the SINE album were cut in a single night). The foundations of the sound are Adams pedalled grand piano chords, which set the airy, down ambience, and frequently, as in SINE’s ‘Just Let Me Do My Thing’ and ‘Mosquito Walk’ also contain the meat of the bass-riff in the left hand; and Richard Taninbaum’s crisp, loping drums. These are the instruments Adams records first, on which he builds, with vibes and craftily programmed synthesizers.

“Richard is an easy drummer and a perfect timekeeper, he’s not trying to show off how complicated he can play, he’s competent. Sometimes I play drums myself, like on ‘Summer Love’ from the Musique album. Richie gets mad at me, because I won’t let him do a second take sometimes, but a lot of it is just off the top of my head.”

Up until the Musique album, Adams hasn’t recorded what he would term orthodox disco (he states, “Disco records are nothing but Motown, but instead of the fours on the snare, it’s four on the foot”). The classic Adams sound is danceable but cooled-out, introspective, grass rather than amyl. With Musique, Adams has given Prelude a massive breakout pop and R&B hit LP, featuring four-on-the-floor, girlie vocals, swirling strings (the actual lines of which are only what Patrick would usually play on synthesizer), galloping bass guitar. The influence of Saturday Night Band and Chic has been noted. Adams elucidates.

“Marv (Schlachter, owner of Prelude Records) sat me down and played me about 20 albums, and I was going crazy because, really, a lot of it I hate. But one of the projects being done then was Saturday Night Band. I have a lot of admiration for Moses Dillard and Jesse Boyce, and I loved what they were doing. At the same time, Atlantic Records and I have had this little love affair going on for a few years. Jerry Greenberg was calling up and saying ‘We’re gonna do something, just be cool’. The second Chic record ‘Everybody Dance’, reminds me of ‘Dance And Shake Your Tambourine’ a lot, and I said ‘Oh yeah? OK well, watch this!’ I play little musical games like that. Tommy Bell and I were doing a little thing like that for a while. He would do a Stylistics record and I would do a Black Ivory record, playing with each other’s ideas.”

What about the echo of Lonnie Smith’s ‘Funk Reaction’ in Musique’s ‘In The Bush’?

“Sandy Cooper, who’s a girlfriend of mine, we were… (laughs). I don’t know where we were, but she started singing ‘Do you like it, do you like it like this’, so it may have been unconscious on her part.”

That love affair with Atlantic has blossomed felicitously. Patrick signed with the label, and is currently cutting two albums for them, one under his own name with lots of outside musicians and some non-disco material, and one as Phreek, which should be the third instalment of the Cloud One SINE story, only with more vocals and more lyrics. That project will feature James Calloway, and Leroy Burgess, the former lead singer with Black Ivory. The record business continues to present little snags though, even for someone as good-humoured, and respected as P.A.

“I just cut a side on Ben E. King. That’s interesting. They gave me the song, because the album which had been done needed one more cut. April/Blackwood Music has sent over the tune. See, Atlantic has been trying to duplicate the formula that Bert and Tony had on ‘Supernatural Thing’. But it don’t work right now, it’s too late for that. It should be something else entirely. If I had said to Jerry Greenberg, ‘No, I don’t think you should do that song but I’ve got this great song over here,’ chances are I might not have got the shot. And I’m always stuck with that. Sometimes I’ll do it, sometimes I’m so frustrated I’ll just say, ‘F*** it. I don’t like it, I’m not gonna cut it, I wanna do this other thing.’ And unfortunately, depending on who it is, the person will usually say, ‘Well, I guess you don’t want to cut the project.’ That’s a bunch of bullshit. I’m trying to save somebody $20,000, and they’re trying to tell me that they know what to do. If they know what to do, why don’t they go into the studio and do it, why are they calling me?” Adams laughs expansively. He knows the answer to that one.

© Davitt SigersonMelody Maker, 9 December 1978

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