Standing strong in the field of Jazz… Adam Smale is one of the serious devotees… an exciting new voice on the scene …take notice!
– Pat Martino
It wasn’t just the clapping. It was the stage. It was the sound of his acoustic guitar reverberating off the walls of the large auditorium. It was the deep rich sound he was hearing and feeling from his guitar vibrating up against his body as he looked out into an audience of indiscernible faces people that was both frightening, and exhilarating.
Within the first few notes of being on stage that first time, followed by a seemingly thunderous applause, a young Adam Smale got hooked on music—especially performing live. Three years later, at age 11, Adam distinctly remembers announcing to his parents one morning that he had made up his mind that he wanted to be a professional guitarist. Within a year that vision came true, much to the surprise of the young guitarist and his parents.
Guitarist/composer Adam Smale tells stories with his music. His “pen” is a personally designed 7-string guitar, wielded with both virtuosity and creativity. His tales are woven from his rich imagination stoked by a wide variety of musical influences and his latest CD, Out of the Blue, fully attests to his compelling artistry.
Raised in a small working class community in Northern Ontario, Adam’s musical ever probing roots first began in Country and Bluegrass. Too small at the tender age of seven to handle the 5-string banjo, he took up the guitar and a lifelong bond grew and a personal commitment to the instrument cemented. By the age of 12, he was performing professionally with local groups and by 14, he was on his way to becoming a seasoned professional, performing in clubs, bars, community events, weddings and private parties, laying important groundwork for the budding guitarist.
During these formative years, Adam branched out to a variety of musical influences. But it wasn’t until his years at Humber College that he discovered jazz, and his path took a profound turn. “Jazz felt completely natural. I was always improvising, even when I was first playing in bands. Being somewhat naive, I thought everyone improvised all the time.” Rather than abandoning his origins—or his earlier influences like Chet Atkins, Albert Lee, Eddie Van Halen, Flatt & Scruggs—Adam began to forge a new direction for himself in the classic tradition of true jazz expression. Charlie Parker, Ed Bickert, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, and pianist Bill Evans, became important influences. More seeds were planted, cultivated, and a new world of possibilities was brought to light.
From Country to Pop Rock, from Jazz to World, Adam eventually performed all over the globe, including South America, India and the Middle East, as well as numerous cross-Canadian tours gaining even more experience. With Toronto as his home base, he performed consistently with his own trios and quartets and was a regular presence at the acclaimed Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival. Adam’s debut CD, Fun City was released in Canada in 2000 to extensive radio play and critical acclaim and was also featured at the prestigious Grand Prix du Jazz at the 2002 Montreal Jazz Festival.
“Guitarist Adam Smale plays with great authority and confidence…keeps the focus on strong original compositions and terrific interplay.”
– Jazz Report
Eventually it was the playing style of the legendary Lenny Breau that had the greatest impact. Not only in the direction of his music, but in the physical means by which he would choose to express it. Returning to the thumb-pick of his early years, Adam began to employ a fingerstyle technique, puzzling together his current sound. “It was stepping back and moving forward at the same time. Fingerstyle is definitely a softer approach, but at times I can coax out more sensual sounds.” To complete the process, Adam designed his own 7-string guitars and now primarily uses his custom-built electric and a self-built classical guitar as his two instruments of choice.
In 2007 Adam left for Michigan where he received his Masters Degree in Jazz Performance at Western Michigan University in 2009. It was during this time he discovered a goldmine of jazz guitar masters, including, Pat Martino, Tal Farlow, and Jim Hall. Adam then decided to transplant himself to the Jazz Mecca, New York City, where he now resides, proving indeed to be more musical fertile ground for the guitarist.
Over the years he has conducted master classes and seminars at Colleges, Universities, and private music schools in the U.S. and Canada. He has taught at Guitar Workshop Plus, National Guitar Workshop, and has maintained private students over the years.
Adam has also written and published the book New Approach to Scales for Guitarists: A Practical Modern Direction, proposing a new way for guitarists to organize, think and implement music scales on guitar. The book’s material stems from Adam’s personal research over many years and a main component to his sound
Shortly after being signed to Ropeadope Records, Adam’s first U.S. CD, Out of the Blue, was released. This recording demonstrates his enormous versatility and virtuosic artistry on guitar, the album also showcases Adam’s remarkable compositional skills, weaving intricate and compelling stories in the classic jazz tradition of the masters. Adam is focusing on touring, composing new material, honing the songs before live audiences, and looking to record more works soon.
As a direct outgrowth from Adam’s early beginnings, it is no surprise that he calls his music “Jazz for the common man.” Despite artistic development over the years, and while certainly containing modern elements, his music still holds the embryo of something that is pure and simple of heart that everyone can grasp without being either overly simplistic or complex. Poised to harvest the fruits of his labor, Adam Smale is here to establish his own place in the forefront of today’s guitar greats.