Kool & the Gang Trombonist Clifford Adams Dies at 62

Musician/jazz educator passes after battle with cancer.

World-renowned trombone player and jazz educator Clifford Adams (pictured far left) passed away Monday (Jan. 12) after a long-time battle with liver cancer, reports The Trentonian.

Adams, remembered as a "national resource," first toured with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells in 1970. He made his recording debut in 1971 on organist Charles Earland's Soul Story album. In following years, he toured with the Stylistics, jazz artists Lou Donaldson, Johnny Hammond Smith and Groove Holmes; and he performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, backing such vocalists as Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, and Sarah Vaughn. In 1977, he found permanent residence with Kool & the Gang.

As a trombonist, arranger and composer, he's won multiple awards (including a Music of Black Origin award and several Grammy, American Music and Soul Train Awards), he earned platinum plaques with Kool & the Gang and recorded two solo albums, I Feel Your Spirit and The Master Power. Adams also taught master classes at such institutions as Princeton, Yale, Trenton State College and Duke University. He's credited his success with his own musical education, including simultaneous training as a vocalist and instrumentalist.

"Compositions come to me in a spiritual way," he'd said, "and not through the intellect alone. At times, I am the conduit. Sometimes I hear the whole band playing. I then open up and channel the music for others to hear."

Just before his passing, Jazz Bridge, a non-profit dedicated to assisting jazz and blues musicians in need, and his family and friends fundraised for a liver transplant, which never transpired. He spent several weeks at the Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, N.J., and transferred to Newark University's Hospital, where he passed in the early morning hours. 

"He has put two kids through college playing the trombone, which is a miracle," said Michael Ray, who played trumpet in Kool & the Gang and considered Adams his "oldest friend in life."

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(Photo: C Brandon/Redferns)

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