Adam Nussbaum:  The MOGS Interview


Adam Nussbaum

Photo by Heinz Kronberger, courtesy of Bernhard Castiglioni at

Jazz Drummer Adam Nussbaum

(January 2003)--  My first exposure to Adam Nussbaum came by way of New York jazz guitarist John Abercrombie recordings.

Nussbaum was born in New York and majored in music at Davis Centre, City College of New York.  Nussbaum's family environment embraced a deep appreciation for the arts and he eventually involved himself in jazz.

I'm quite familiar with Nussbaum's work in a modern approach to jazz, yet his numerous projects explore the entire jazz spectrum.  The musicians he has accompanied and recorded with reads like a book of who's who in the jazz community.

    -Mark D McKinley           The MOGS Interviews


MM:  What becomes your primary focus when playing for a modern jazz guitarist such as John Abercrombie verses a more traditional guitarist in a trio setting?

AN:  Each situation brings it's own specific requirements. I listen, feel and respond and try to supply what the music demands.

MM:  Would you explain the distinction between using restraint and displaying a show of force in terms of setting the appropriate beat when accompanying musicians of varying styles.

AN:  My goal is to accompany in a manner that is appropriate for the music.
By using a combination of my intuition, experience, ears, and being sensitive, I try to do the right thing.

MM:  Do traditional jazz compositions or modern jazz compositions play the bigger role in making that distinction?

AN:  I think you have to be accountable to the music and it's participants.

MM:  Would you offer some insight into the music of the Uffe Steen Trio?

AN:   BIG FUN!!!  Uffe has a great sound and a very blues oriented feel in everything he plays.  Lennart Ginman plays bass in a very strong supportive manner that enables us to have a solid foundation and HIT!
I love that.  We just played........

MM:  What other projects have you been involved with that combined elements of jazz, blues and/or rock?

AN:   Many.  I'm a product of the times I've grown up in.  A lot of situations have involved many fusions of different elements.  The following artists all respect the jazz tradition, but have brought other elements to their music as well, Dave Liebman, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Bob Berg, Mike Brecker, Randy Brecker, Eliane Elias, Gil Evans, Mike Stern, Uffe Steen, Dalia Faitelson, and others.

MM:  What projects are you working on for 2003?

AN:   Gigs with James Moody, Joe Sample, John Abercrombie, George Gruntz, Rita Marcotulli, WDR Big Band in Köln Germany...........

MM:  As an artist, I occasionally focus on a select group of colors depending on the image I wish to achieve.  As a musician, what determines your choices of drums/percussions as far as the setup you would use to achieve your goal?

AN:   I usually use a kit of traditional size drums and depend on my ears to determine my tuning and touch to achieve the sonic results that work in the context at hand.

MM:  Imagining drums being your canvases, what colors would you begin with if you were providing [painting] the heartbeat for a performer such as Cassandra Wilson?

AN:  I would start with natural earth tone colors.

MM:  Who are the new artists you consider to be innovators in jazz?

AN:  I won't name individuals.  The world is getting smaller.  We live in a time when everything is influencing everyone........ Music has always been effected by the world around it.

MM:  I'm sure there have been many performances that have left you inspired, but is there one performance that stands above the rest, involving exceptional improvisations amongst your fellow musicians?

AN:  Those magical moments have happened in a variety of situations.  I can't isolate any one gig. Hopefully the next one!

MM:  Let's talk a few minutes about drummers that really inspire you. Who are they?

AN:  The great ones.  We all know who they are.
Feel is the thing for me.  Everyone from Baby Dodds to Milford Graves have influenced me.

MM:  Which is the greater source of their inspiration for you-- their technique of playing the drums, or their attitude toward the instrument?

AN:  The attitude.  To quote an old saying.....
                      'It ain't what you do, it's the way you do it'

MM:  What nontraditional instrument would you like to introduce into a trio format for the sole purpose of expounding on jazz improvisations?

AN:  Interesting question.  I'm more concerned with what's being conveyed, than the instrument it's on.

MM:  You've been involved with several of Jamey Aebersold's projects.  At what music junction did your paths cross?

AN:  I initially met Jamey in Australia, when on tour with Dave Liebman in 1980.
I was involved in workshops along with him and a fantastic teacher, Ed Soph.

MM:  How has Jamey influenced your own thoughts on music?

AN:  I respect his devotion to helping spread the word of jazz.

MM:  How do you balance the demands placed on your time and talents?

AN:  It's a constant challenge.  Trying to play, trying to be with the family, and trying to pay the bills........

MM:  What interests do you pursue outside the studios and live performances?

AN:  I love my family. I like to read, enjoy the company of people, my dog.............
I'm fortunate to love what I do.  It's a real challenge at times, but it's an ongoing ever-changing journey.

(C) 2003 Mark McKinley  (Mark's Online Music Source)

Adam Nussbaum

courtesy of Bernhard Castiglioni at
Photo by Heinz Kronberger

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