Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wilmette native Adam Kromelow returning to area with band KROM, new album in tow


New York-based jazz trio KROM earned critical and commercial acclaim for its first album, "Youngblood."

The band, led by pianist and Wilmette native Adam Kromelow is currently touring in support of its self-titled sophomore album. KROM will perform Oct. 5 at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Sherman Avenue Theater, 1702 Sherman Ave., Evanston. 

Tickets are available by going to

I had the chance to talk to Kromelow about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. Is this upcoming show even more special to you, seeing that you grew up in Wilmette? How does the jazz scene in New York City compare to when you still lived here?

Absolutely. It's one of my favorite things to come and perform in my hometown.

Generally we play at jazz clubs in Chicago like Andy's or the Jazz Showcase. But I wanted to do something even closer to home so the show was more accessible to family and friends who can't easily make it into the city.

I have also lately liked performing in theaters instead of clubs because we can organize the show on our own terms. The scene in New York is amazing, there is so much diverse music happening and so many outlets for it. 

I can't really compare it to the Chicago scene because I never really lived there as an adult. But I have a lot of friends playing in Chicago who are doing amazing things so I know jazz is alive and well there.

Q - You are touring in support of your self-titled sophomore album, which was released earlier this year. Your first album, "Youngblood," was critically acclaimed and reached number 14 on the College Music Journal radio chart. Did you feel a lot of pressure in following up the album? In sitting down to make your sophomore album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

I didn't really feel that much pressure because I knew the music was so much stronger. I almost consider "Youngblood" our "zeroth" album and KROM our real debut.

"Youngblood" was all over the map genre-wise, but with KROM, we have really settled into our progressive rock/jazz sound. My only goals were for the melodies to be very clear and memorable, the grooves to feel very danceable, and the improvisational moments to feel natural. 

I feel like we accomplished this, but I guess its really up to the listener.

Q - I understand that you and Jason attended the Manhattan School of Music and that Raviv graduated from Columbia University in New York City. How did the band come together? What do you think each of you bring to the table?

Jason and I were actually next door neighbors in the dorms at Manhattan School of Music and we ended up playing together a lot in classes and jam sessions. I met Raviv through a number of mutual friends from Manhattan School of Music who knew him from high school.

We all became fast friends over the years and formed this band in my last year of school. They each bring a lot to the table.

I write the music, but they help arrange it and give it the real mood that ends up coming across. Raviv has such a strong articulation that adds incredibly to our beats, and Jason orchestrates on the drums using a lot of textures that you don't hear a lot.

We often try to utilize the full capacity of our instruments to sound like there are a lot more than just three of us.

Q - The band was previously known as the Adam Kromelow Trio. What was the reason for the name change? 

There are sort of two reasons. One was that no one could find us online because they couldn't spell Kromelow. I remember once we opened for Rusted Root, and people would come up with us and say "I want to buy your album on iTunes.  You're Adam Cromwell with a 'C'?"

KROM is a lot easier for people to remember.  But also, there are so many jazz bands called "The so and so trio or quartet," I wanted to have a band name that shows that we are a real unit with our own music.

Not just another dime-a-dozen jazz band.

Q - You have received the "Downbeat Magazine" award for outstanding jazz performance, and the Manhattan School of Music President's award. What have you tried to do with your playing? Are you surprised at how many people are connecting with the group's music?

Those were student awards that I received a long time ago, but it wasn't until after graduating from the Manhattan School of Music that I started to figure out my identity as a pianist. I always loved rock and pop music, but was studying jazz so seriously, that I felt like two separate musicians.

Writing music for KROM was a way for me to incorporate all of these parts of my musical identity to create one cohesive sound. I guess you're always surprised that people are liking your music, but you just have to be true to your own tastes and ideas and trust that that honesty and passion will resonate with listeners. 

KROM has been fortunate to receive some really great reviews and we are very grateful for it.

Q - You have worked with such esteemed musicians as Bob Mintzer, Jon Irabagon and and DJ Logic. What did you learn from such experiences?

Bob Mintzer and Jon Irabagon are both incredible saxophonists whom I got to play one gig each with due to lucky circumstances. These were not high profile gigs at all, but as a young musician I very quickly picked up on their confidence.

As improvisers they were so sure of themselves that they were free to take enormous risks that almost always paid off. I think that just comes with experience. 

DJ Logic is a collaborative DJ who has worked with people all over the map, from Christian McBride to John Mayer. He performed on a song that I wrote for Arturo O'Farrill's (the producer of Youngblood) Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.

He created the coolest sounds on the spot. I would love to work with him again. We have spoken about collaborating, hopefully we'll be able to make that happen sometime.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Our real goals right now are just to play more shows and reach more people. We feel that the music is sounding really good and we just want to get it out there more and more. 

As for musical goals, I really would like to try to add some singing.