NRBQ’s time in the sun

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MUSIC -

For 50 years, NRBQ have been de­liv­er­ing ex­pertly crafted, deliri­ously zany roots-based pop. In­formed by vin­tage rock ’n’ roll, boo­gie-woo­gie blues and avant-garde jazz, not to men­tion the Three Stooges and show tunes, their live sets are the au­ral equiv­a­lent of ADHD. While they’re revered by fans — that is, any­one who’s seen them on­stage — main­stream suc­cess has proven some­what elu­sive. Out­side of their 1989 hit, a cover of the Rockin’ Rebels’ “Wild Week­end,” the Q is largely a cult phe­nom­e­non.

The beat­ing heart of the band is a straw-haired gas fire named Terry Adams, a manic rock ’n’ roll ge­nius who torches ev­ery key­board he touches. Adams, who founded the New Rhythm and Blues Quin­tet in his na­tive Louisville, Ky., in 1966 — but kicked them into over­drive in Mi­ami in 1968 — is the only orig­i­nal mem­ber re­main­ing. The cur­rent group, fea­tur­ing Scott Ligon on gui­tar and vo­cals and Chad Chou­croun on drums, has been tour­ing and record­ing as NRBQ since 2011, al­beit with re­cent ad­di­tion Casey McDonough on bass. They also play be­hind Adams on his 2015 re­lease “Talk Th­elo­nious,” a trib­ute to one of the key­boardist’s sem­i­nal in­flu­ences, jazz gi­ant Th­elo­nious Monk.

Recorded live, the al­bum fea­tures Adams’ idio­syn­cratic ar­range­ments of Monk clas­sics such as “In Walked Bud” and “Straight No Chaser,” as well as lesser-known ti­tles. The pro­ject was deeply per­sonal for Adams and a long time com­ing.

When Adams first ar­rived in New York in 1967, he took ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to see Monk per­form and even­tu­ally be­friended the enig­matic pi­anist. “He was in­tim­i­dat­ing,” Adams con­firms by phone from a friend’s house in Western Mas­sachusetts, not far from his home in Ver­mont. “But I think he ap­pre­ci­ated me be­cause I didn’t seem in­tim­i­dated.”

One night, in the kitchen of the Vil­lage Van­guard be­tween sets, Adams asked Monk if he would play “Gal­lop’s Gal­lop,” an ob­scure song from his canon. Monk asked his sax­o­phon­ist, Paul Jef­frey, if he knew the tune, but Jef­frey was stumped. So Adams sung it for him, all 32 bars. “I didn’t re­quest it be­cause it was ob­scure, I just re­ally loved that song,” he re­calls, laugh­ing. “It was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence to sing it for him.”

An­other jazz leg­end, Sun


When: 8 p.m. Thurs­day Where: Funky Bis­cuit in Boca Raton Cost: $20-$35, $10 for un­der 21 (with par­ent or le­gal guardian) Con­tact: Call 561-465-3946 or go to Funky­Bis­ Ra, also played a vi­tal role in NRBQ’s story. In late 1967, Ra handed Adams a 45 of his song “Rocket No. 9.” NRBQ had bro­ken up, but Adams was so in­spired by what he heard that he put the band back to­gether. They re­grouped in Mi­ami and played clubs such as Thee Im­age and the World, as well as at Greynolds Park.

NRBQ also crashed the Mi­ami Pop Fes­ti­val, which was held in May 1968 at Gulf­stream Park in Hallandale Beach. They weren’t on the bill, which in­cluded Jimi Hen­drix and Frank Zappa, but they ended up on­stage with Chuck Berry.

While the band’s ten­ure in South Florida was short­lived, Adams re­calls it fondly. “Florida is def­i­nitely where we picked up our atomic en­ergy,” he says. “The sun was a big in­flu­ence on us. In an in­ter­view in the ’60s, they asked me, ‘What are your in­flu­ences?’ and I said, ‘The sun.’ They said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘Well, the sun and Sun Ra and Sun Records.’ ”

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