Kool and the Gang trombonist Clifford Adams died this morning after a battle with liver cancer, friends close to the family said.
Adams, a Trenton native, needed a liver transplant and did not have health insurance. His health severely declined over the last year.
On Christmas Eve, friends held a press conference to raise awareness about his health problems and raise funds to cover the cost of a transplant. Supporters collected money through Jazz Bridge, a nonprofit crowdfunding site that supports musicians.
Born in Trenton, Adams played with many of the jazz greats of the 20th century. In 1968, he got his professional start in Trenton, in the horn section of a band called the VSQs. He, Michael Ray, and Jimmy Stackhouse comprised that horn section. By the age of 17, he was playing on the road with Patti Labelle and the Bluebells. After spending the summer on the road, he returned home to further his education in music theory at Trenton State College. He sat in at the Fantasy Lounge, a Trenton Jazz club where young musicians were groomed, and played for matinee audiences. Clifford played there with Sonny Stitt, James Moody, George Benson, Shirley Scott, Gene Ammons, Don Patterson, and Charles Earland, who took young Adams out on the road.
While playing at Harlem’s famed jazz spot, The Club Barron, Clifford met many jazz greats, including Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan. In 1973, Adams Adams, Mike Ray, and Larry Gittens were the horn section for The Stylistics world tour. Adams then went on a two-year stint with the world famous Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Big Band. After playing with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, then headed by the Duke’s son Mercer Ellington, he did a European tour with Max Roach, and then formally joined Kool & the Gang.
Generations of people are familiar with the Clifford Adams trombone solos on “Joanna” from Kool & the Gang, “Someday We’ll All Be Free/Save the Children” from Regina Belle, and the much celebrated “Slam Dunk,” released in the spring of 1996 by Kool & the Gang, featuring Clifford Adams on the “NBA at 50″ multi-platinum selling album. The following year, Adams released his debut solo project; a classical Jazz CD entitled “The Master Power,” which did very well throughout Europe, which is home to an enormous Adams’ fan base. His second solo CD was “I Feel Your Spirit.”
Condolences were posted on Facebook and other social media sites and websites today as news spread of Adams’ death.
“This is a devastating loss for so many people and the world of music,” wrote Jim Holton. “He was one of the most amazing, kind, caring and gentle people I ever knew. I will miss him dearly.”
“The world lost an amazing human being today in the passing of legendary trombonist Clifford Adams, but I lost a wonderfully supportive and inspiring friend,” wrote Anthony Branker, the director of jazz studies at Princeton University. “It was my honor and joy to have worked with and learn from Clifford for over twenty-five years and I will never forget his beautiful spirit, his laughter, his otherworldly musicianship, and his love for life. May God Bless and Protect his Family and hold them close now and always.”