“A rising star of the piano” – BBC Radio 3, Jazz Line-Up
“There is no jazz code he hasn’t deciphered and mastered” – Manchester Evening News
“A real find” - Jazz UK
“Fairhall’s piano is a questing, quixotic voice with a comprehensive ‘inside and out’ vocabulary” – Jazzwise
“Adam Fairhall is a total star” - Independent on Sunday
Raised in Cornwall, Adam began, like many pianists, by practising boogie and blues with friends during school lunchtimes. He received piano lessons covering jazz harmony and repertoire in his teens, before moving north to study Contemporary Arts at MMU Cheshire, where he received a first class honours degree and an MA with distinction. Having decided towards the end of his undergraduate studies to devote his time to the study of jazz, Adam followed his studies at MMU with Master’s study at Leeds College of Music, receiving a MMus in Jazz Studies (Performance) in 2005. While at Leeds he studied with pianist Mark Donlon and also took lessons with pianist Matthew Bourne. In 2005 he received the college’s Sam Hood Rosebowl for Outstanding Jazz Performance. Returning to MMU to teach and continue his practice and research, Adam received a PhD in 2008 and continues to hold a part-time post as Senior Lecturer in Popular Music in the Cheshire faculty’s Department of Contemporary Arts.
Adam’s distinctive piano playing has been noted for the diversity of its stylistic reference points; idioms drawn from any period of jazz history may be blended, collided, subverted, hinted at or played completely ‘straight’ in his performances. Despite this playful and often witty approach, Adam’s playing is committed rather than ironic and detached, and reveals a love of piano jazz from ragtime to free.
Adam’s projects as a leader include a duo with sonic artist Paul J Rogers, in which they mix piano performance with electronic processing, samples from early recordings and home-made instruments such as the diddley-bow. They released their debut album, Second-Handed Blues, on ASC Records in 2011 to excellent reviews and Radio 3 airplay, and have performed at notable venues including the Vortex and the Capstone Theatre, Liverpool.
Adam’s most ambitious project as a leader is The Imaginary Delta, which involves a seven-piece ensemble. The Imaginary Delta was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival, and premiered at Band on the Wall, Manchester, in July 2011 to considerable acclaim; the premiere was voted the no. 1 gig of 2011 by journalist Chris Ackerley. The project includes a 3-horn front line and also features Paul J Rogers on laptop, turntable and diddley-bow. The music revisits early jazz forms in a surprising, passionate and at times highly deconstructive way. A live recording was released on SLAM in spring 2012 to 4 and 5 star reviews, and the band appeared as part of the Vortex’s programme for the London Jazz Festival 2012, and at the Forge, Camden in February 2013. In 2014 Adam was commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival and Manchester Literature Festival to re-work The Imaginary Delta in collaboration with acclaimed poet Jackie Kay, using her poems about Bessie Smith in addition to new poetry. The resulting work was performed at the Royal Northern College of Music and as part of the Manchester Literature Festival in 2014. Adam and Jackie performed new material from the collaboration on Radio 3’s Women’s Hour in July 2014.
In addition to these projects, Adam also performs as a solo pianist and in a conventional piano trio format. Notable solo performances include recitals at the Leeds International Jazz Conference 2005, the Sage, Gateshead in 2011 and the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014. Adam’s solo work often incorporates unusual mechanical keyboards such as the harmonium, dulcitone and toy piano. His solo work was selected for the Northern Line scheme 2014-15.
Adam’s trio performs frequently in the north, and were heard on Radio 3′s Jazz Line-Up in 2009. Adam’s new ‘free’ trio with Paul Hession on drums and Tim Fairhall on bass, The Markov Chain, released their eponymous debut album on the Bruce’s Fingers label in September 2014.
Adam frequently performs as a free improviser with the north’s most acclaimed free players, often using his portable mechanical keyboards. He performs with vibist Corey Mwamba and percussionist Johnny Hunter under the name Backyard Chassis, and convenes a six-piece improvising group of top northern improvisers called The Spirit Farm, whose debut album will be released on SLAM in 2015.
Adam has recorded ten albums and numerous BBC sessions as a sideman, most notably with acclaimed sax player Nat Birchall.
In 2009 Adam was selected for Take Five Five Edition VI, a prestigious professional development scheme designed to ”give some of the UK’s most talented young jazz musicians the unique opportunity to take time out to develop their craft”. Take Five is a Jerwood charitable Foundation/PRS Foundation initiative with additional support from Arts Council England and Musicians Benevolent Fund.