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Adam Hopkins' School Work Live at the Dark Room

Bassist Adam Hopkins with Bob Miller on Trumpet (Photo courtesy of Peter McElhinney)
Bassist Adam Hopkins created School Work to perform the music of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler and other free jazz and avant garde composers. (Photo by Peter McElhinney) 
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School Work Live at the Dark Room (Photo courtesy of Peter McElhinney)
School Work live at the Dark Room on November 5th, 2019. Bob Miller, trumpet; John Lilley, alto; J.C. Kuhl, tenor; Scott Clark, drums and Adam Hopkins on bass. Laura Ann Singh also performed with the group.  (Photo by Peter McElhinney) 
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The Band School Work focuses on free and experimental jazz in the tradition of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Albert Ayler. Friday evening, November 15th  at Candela Books + Gallery, School Work will share a billing with bassist Michael Formanek who will be playing with his son Peter Formanek on reeds.   

VPM recorded School Work’s performance on November 5th at The Dark Room. The musicians were Bob Miller on trumpet, John Lilly on alto sax, J.C. Kuhl on tenor sax, Scott Clark on drums and Adam Hopkins on bass. The performance was broadcast Thursday, November 14th. 

Here are highlights from the interview with bandleader Adam Hopkins

Peter: What opened up your ears to Ornette Coleman and other free and avant garde composers? 

Hopkins: I can pinpoint it to a very specific moment when I was at James Madison. There are many great professors there but two that really inspired me David Pope, who's the tenor sax professor... and Chuck Dodas, who runs the department at James Madison. They told me to go check out this concert that was happening at UVA. It was John Zorn's Masada. It was my first week of my sophomore year in college, and I had never heard anything like it. 

Listen to a concert by John Zorn's Masada here. 

As soon as I got back from that concert, I started investigating that music and that very next week, I discovered “The Shape of Jazz to Come” by Ornette Coleman. 

What I responded to sort of immediately was the freedom in their playing. In that music, there are really beautiful melodies. It's incredibly melodic, but as soon as the melody is over, the playing is a bit more open. So traditional jazz has a set of chord changes in a set number of bars that the musicians are playing. Over “The Shape of Jazz to Come,” the beginning of free jazz, really, the musicians are playing in a more open way and they're reacting to what each other are doing. They're not really worried about counting bars, they're not really worried about chord changes. And, to me, that was something that I had never heard before. And it really spoke to me for some reason and continues to do so.

Peter: Talk about the label that you’ve recently founded. 

I have a record label called Out of Your Head Records, which I started last October, I was putting out my debut record as a leader with my compositions on it - this band called Crickets, which is a Brooklyn-based band... And I saw my friends shopping their music around to labels and even if they would get picked up by a label, they wouldn't really do much for them. They wouldn't do a whole lot of publicity. They would absolutely not pay any money to help make the music or do pressing or any sort of physical product. So I thought I would just start a label and do it myself. So I started the label to release the first album, which is Adam Hopkins’ Crickets. And then immediately after, a friend of mine - Dustin Carlson - had a record that he wanted to put out, so we put out Crickets in October, we put out Dustin's album in November and we're up to four albums now. We just put one out last week.

When I moved to Richmond, I had known about Scott Clark for years. He's on a record label called Clean Feed that I really love. And I'd heard both of his quartet recordings. And over the years, actually, probably three or four years ago, I started coming down to Richmond and doing double bills with Scott’s band. So I would bring a band from New York, and we would play a double bill with Scott's quartet. And I just knew that Scott is like minded in the sort of music that he likes. So when I moved to Richmond, the record label was rolling. And it's been successful and it's been a really good thing and I realized that I would love some help with it. Scott was very enthusiastic about doing that and we've been running all the publicity for the releases together, and it's been going really well. So we're going to continue to work together on it, hopefully, have some of Scott's releases coming out next year.