What's Hot With Jazz Guitar: Adam Smale

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature Canadian jazz guitarist Adam Smale. Adam is a 7 string whiz. Adam and I both share a high regard for Lenny Breau and Lenny's influence can be heard in Adam's playing. Check him out.

Online Bio

You could say Adam grew up inside of a cornfield-on 3 acres his parents bought in an existing cornfield of which 3 sides of the property was surrounded by corn. Bar River (35min east of Sault Ste. Marie), a very small working-class community in Northern Ontario, Canada, is the place that provided the young guitarist with his deep roots in Country and Bluegrass music. Initially, at 7 years old, he had wanted to the play 5-string banjo, but when told by a local teacher he was too small to play it, he then tried his hand at the guitar. His bond with the instrument was immediate. By the tender age of 12 he became a member of the musician's union and burst onto the local music scene performing at various community events. By 14, was on the road gaining valuable experience such as playing night clubs and weddings around Northern Ontario. (Lately Adam has been quickly making a name for himself amongst the more famous entertainers and has recently been hired to perform with REGIS PHILBIN when performing in the Toronto area)

During these formative years a personal quest was cemented and impassioned seeds were planted which were allowed to flourish over time; logically so, an organic blend of musical influences was given fertile ground to grow its own solid, dynamic, ever-probing roots. After eight years of performing, Adam's talent and creative drive had exceeded the limitations of small-town exposure.

He made the move to Toronto, enrolling in the excellent music program at Humber College. Humber introduced Adam to the music of the jazz greats, exposure to other types music, and recognizing his roots in country, Adam was making a natural progression to his own brand of Jazz. However, it was not until years later, after graduating, that Adam found another monumental influence, a guitar master who also touted Chet Atkins a mentor as a young "picker"... - none other than the legendary Lenny Breau.

Breau's guitar work inspired Smale to take yet another new direction in Jazz Guitar playing. After serious contemplation, Adam discarded his flatpick to wield a thumpick once again-a return to his youth. "It seems strange. I'm kind of steppin' back and moving forward at the same time. But, I can coax more nuances from the guitar with a fingerstyle technique." Adam asserts. "Lenny's thing was to sound more like a piano player. You're playing chords for yourself while you play melodies or solo." This challenging technique, demonstrates Adam's constant endeavour for improvement with a fearless approach to musical growth and discovery. This expansion in Adam's musical evolution, in fact, also caused him to expand his guitar. Literally! He designed a seven-string guitar and had a local luthier build it for him. Adam clarifies, "With six strings, I felt a little boxed in. I now have more flexibility with the extra string."

Adam's debut CD, Fun City, an independent release, charted the 9th most played CD in Canadian national radio for the whole month of September according to the Canadian National Jazz Chart in 2000. In 2002, the Adam Smale Quartet placed 2nd in the renowned Grand Prix de Jazz contest, during the Montreal Jazz Festival. His song "It Was Something She Said" made it to the "Top 20" in the 2005 Unisong International Songwriting Contest Jazz/Blues category. No small feat considering this song is an instrumental and every song that won in each category all had lyrics.

Adam has performed in South America, India, and the Middle East, as well as performing in the Toronto area. One side-project, is experimental band Camarillo; it is a melting pot of genres, including World Music, Electronic, with strong free-improv elements. Adam has performed with such notable top Canadian Jazz talent as Don Thompson and Terry Clarke. Adam conducts master classes and seminars in Canada & the USA, for Guitar Workshop Plus, the National Guitar Workshop, as well as juggling some private students now in the Kalamazoo area.

Adam Smale's web site:

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc now endorses Peerless Guitars and has the website Jazz Guitar Zone to help promote Peerless jazz guitars in the US. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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