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Jazz Sabbath Live in LA: Exclusive Interview with Adam Wakeman

Jazz Sabbath Live in LA
Adam Wakeman

Rock and Jazz have always had a symbiotic musical relationship. The legendary rock musicians from the 1960s all learned from the Jazz greats that came before them. One of the ultimate Rock bands of all-time is the progressive Rock band Yes. They combined catchy melodies, experimental Jazz chord progressions, and Classical music songwriting structures like the Sonata form of exposition, development, and recapitulation to create some of the biggest rock hits of all-time. 


Adam Wakeman, the son of Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, has continued the family tradition of musical greatness through his work as the current keyboardist and rhythm guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. He has also performed with Black Sabbath, Annie Lennox, Deep Purple, and Travis among many other notable artists. His music library Adam Wakeman Presents (represented by APM Music) is an expansive collection of music perfect for sync and features songs from artists such as Ana Molly and his daughter Skyla as well as Jazz and Rock compilation albums.  


Adam has the Rock pedigree, incredible chops, and sense of humor to form the concept for Jazz Sabbath. This band, which started as a joke between him and Black Sabbath’s security guard, plays instrumental Jazz arrangements of Black Sabbath songs. The result is toe-tapping and familiar all at the same time.

Hear them for yourself at the Catalina Club in Hollywood on June 11th and 12th at 7 PM! 


Your family is synonymous with musical talent. How has this shaped your life?   


I guess I don’t know any different as it’s always been that way, having a successful father in the music industry. My parents separated when I was quite young so I feel grateful to have had the stability growing up from my mum and stepfather - and then the craziness of having a rock star father at the weekends!

I always remember being very driven as a child (and still am as an adult!) and having a figure like my father to look up to as inspiration was always key. Having any figure to look up to, whether it’s a family member or other musical icon is where it all starts. I had another figure I admired greatly as a teenager who was an older musician locally on the Isle of Man where I lived for a few years who was hugely responsible for the man I am today. Anglin Buttimore passed away a couple of years ago, which was a very sad loss.  


What styles of music did you grow up playing and how has it changed over your lifetime? 


No one has ever asked me that question before, but it’s a really important one because just like everyone’s music tastes changes, so does what you play. I started out learning Dire Straits - I loved the piano parts in Telegraph Road and my mum bought me the score for Christmas one year. I remember it being really frustrating because I was still in the early stages of learning to play and I couldn’t play it properly. I’d get annoyed but I practiced until I could play it like the recording.

I wasn’t really interested in progressive music at that time but got into Marillion and Mark Kelly’s keyboard work I really liked. The solo on “incommunicado” was one of the first I learnt once I’d reached a good enough standard. From there, when I was in my teens I was more into Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Queen, blues and a pianist called Dr. John. His playing wasn’t overly technical but along with his style of playing, writing and arranging, his gravelly voice oozed vibe that was missing in the 80s popular music around at that time. As I developed as a player, my horizons broadened more and there’s nothing I don’t listen to now.  


How do you view live performances in comparison to the writing process? Is there one you prefer over the other? 


I have friends who stopped touring so they could focus more on writing and producing, and I have some friends who just tour and don’t really write. For me, I need both. If I’m on tour too long, it kind of gets to you and if I’m in the studio too long, that gets to me in a different way. Both in a negative way. Having both in my life creates a kind of musical equilibrium.  

Some years are more touring heavy, some more recording heavy but they kind of balance out in the end. Recording is a kind of hidden process and if you want to read reviews you can choose to or not too. You can kind of hide from the criticism a little if you want to. Playing live is the complete opposite. If people don’t like it - they let you know straight away! Seeing people having a great time at a concert, whether it’s a few hundred at a Jazz Sabbath show or 10,000 with Ozzy at the Hollywood bowl it brings the same pleasure when you’re on stage. 


How do you approach arranging the serious rock riffage of Black Sabbath songs into the Jazz idiom? 


To begin with, it was a joke in a hotel bar in Berlin. I was sat with one of Black Sabbath’s security guards called Didier on a night off on the Black Sabbath 13 tour and it was complete empty. I’d had a few glasses of wine and he said that as the place was empty, could I play the Sabbath set on the piano. I said it would sound shit as it’s mainly guitar - but said I could improvise some Jazz interpretations- which amused us for ten minutes. When I retired to bed, I started thinking that it would actually be a fun album - and that got me thinking about creating a fictional disillusioned character who claims to have written them all first in his Jazz band in the 60s.


When I started working on the first album, I would play the original Sabbath song - “Iron man” for example and then sit and see how I would adapt the main theme or melody for my Jazz style. If it didn’t come quickly or was a struggle, then I’d shelve it and move onto another track.  


What similarities does Heavy Metal music have in common with Jazz? 


I’m not really sure Heavy Metal as a genre has any obvious similarities but Sabbath definitely do. Bills drumming has a swing and Jazz inspired vibe to it in a lot of places and Geezer’s bass is always really busy - not too dissimilar to walking bass lines in Jazz.  


What direction do you see taking Jazz Sabbath in the future? 

we’re beginning to play shows all around the world - in 2023 we played UK, Romania, Greece, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and we have a tour this year in Australia which is nearly sold out already.

What I find interesting is that almost all agents turn down booking us - which is why we mainly book directly now. The ones who have taken a risk with booking us have made some good money and all the shows have been really successful so we are loyal to those who have supported us from the beginning and could see the potential in the project. That appreciation is extended to APM for the support in putting on the shows in LA and making it possible to perform in America.

There is definitely more coming in the way of recordings from Jazz Sabbath and I want to take it touring in every country I can book us in! 


Jazz Sabbath Live in LA

Jazz Sabbath Live in LA

Click the dates below to purchase tickets.

Visit the Catalina Jazz Club Calendar for more info.


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