Raised in Cornwall, Adam began, like many pianists, by practising boogie and blues with friends during school lunchtimes. He received piano lessons covering jazz harmony and repertoire in his teens, before moving north to study Contemporary Arts at MMU Cheshire, where he received a first class honours degree and an MA with distinction. Having decided towards the end of his undergraduate studies to devote his time to the study of jazz, Adam followed his studies at MMU with Master’s study at Leeds College of Music, receiving a MMus in Jazz Studies (Performance) in 2005. While at Leeds he studied with pianist Mark Donlon and also took lessons with pianist Matthew Bourne. In 2005 he received the college’s Sam Hood Rosebowl for Outstanding Jazz Performance. Returning to MMU to teach and continue his practice and research, Adam received a PhD in 2008 and continues to hold a part-time post as Senior Lecturer in Popular Music in the Cheshire faculty’s Department of Contemporary Arts.
Adam’s distinctive piano playing has been noted for the diversity of its stylistic reference points; idioms drawn from any period of jazz history may be blended, collided, subverted, hinted at or played completely ‘straight’ in his performances. Despite this playful and often witty approach, Adam’s playing is committed rather than ironic and detached, and reveals a love of piano jazz from ragtime to free.
Adam’s most ambitious project as a leader is The Imaginary Delta, which involves a seven-piece ensemble. The Imaginary Delta was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival, and premiered at Band on the Wall, Manchester, in July 2011 to considerable acclaim; the premiere was named the no. 1 gig of 2011 by journalist Chris Ackerley. The project includes a 3-horn front line and also features Paul J Rogers on laptop, turntable and diddley-bow. The music revisits early jazz forms in a surprising, passionate and at times highly deconstructive way. A live recording was released on SLAM in spring 2012 to 4 and 5 star reviews, and the band appeared as part of the Vortex’s programme for the London Jazz Festival 2012, and at the Forge, Camden in February 2013. In 2014 Adam was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival and Manchester Literature Festival to re-work The Imaginary Delta in collaboration with acclaimed poet Jackie Kay, using her poems about Bessie Smith in addition to new poetry. The resulting work was performed at the Royal Northern College of Music and as part of the Manchester Literature Festival in 2014. Adam and Jackie performed new material from the collaboration on Radio 3’s Women’s Hour in July 2014.
In addition to this, Adam performs solo and in a variety of other formats, from an organ trio (The Revival Room) to a piano trio format (Fragments trio and The Markov Chain) and a seven-piece improvising ensemble (The Spirit Farm, whose eponymous album placed at no. 5 on Daniel Spicer’s critic’s list of the top albums of 2015 in Jazzwise). His work frequently involves him playing keyboard instruments other than the piano, including prepared electric piano, Indian harmonium, toy piano and drawbar organ, and he is becoming increasingly active as an accordionist in several projects. On all these instruments Adam enjoys exploiting and subverting conventional techniques while investigating the idiosyncratic, individual qualities of the instrument and it’s potential for free playing. In developing a free vocabulary for instruments relatively rare in that field, Adam is becoming increasingly sought after as a free player, both in the northern scene and the London scene.
In addition to five albums as leader or co-leader, Adam has recorded ten albums and numerous BBC sessions as a sideman, most notably with acclaimed sax player Nat Birchall.
Adam has been interviewed for Jazzwise and the Wire, and was selected for the Northern Line scheme as a solo artist in 2014. In 2009 Adam was selected for Take Five Five Edition VI, a prestigious professional development scheme designed to ”give some of the UK’s most talented young jazz musicians the unique opportunity to take time out to develop their craft”. Take Five is a Jerwood charitable Foundation/PRS Foundation initiative with additional support from Arts Council England and Musicians Benevolent Fund.