On his second CD for the Telarc label, Bluezeum: Put Your Mind on Hold, which was produced by Grammy award-winning Rick Hahn, Adwin continues to filet the perceived cut-and-dry concepts from which society operates. Adwin’s first recording, Bluezeum: Portrait of a Groove, rose on the European charts, receiving rave reviews, and reaching #6 on the German charts while becoming the most requested video in that country.
Spawned by his own hunger for innovative musical concoctions and the artist’s Los Angeles enclave of Leimert Park, Adwin has grown from poet and performance artist to musician and composer. Watching his favorite poets such as Haki Madhubuti, Sonya Sanchez, Gil Scott Heron, and Kamau Daaood become the words and listening to the music of master instrumentalists like drummer Billy Higgins and Roberto Miranda, propelled Adwin toward unexplored territory. His work percolates with the duality of nature, light/dark, peace/war, good/evil, poverty/wealth, right/wrong. “I always wondered if there was an all-powerful God,” Adwin says. “Why didn’t he just stomp out the devil? That’s when I started asking what’s behind life.” These questions led Adwin to believe that nothing was as it seemed.
On this new recording, Adwin shot for what he calls, “UTE—Unfamiliar Territory Explored.” It’s a concept that Norwood Fisher of Fishbone founded and one that Adwin utilized when the pressure of perfection in the studio hung over his head. “It’s an act of surrender when you’re up against something and you’re just like ‘man, what do we do now?’ I’d just declare UTE and let it flow.”
Featuring multi-instrumentalists Dexter Story and Ron Cox with vocals by one of Madonna’s backup singers, Nikki Harris, Put Your Mind on Hold possesses all of the themes that represent life’s dichotomies. Incorporating philosophy, psychology, sexology—Adwin’s lyrics are always steeped in paradox, rather than complacency, but he’s learned to simply flow with what’s inside—his desire to heal and to help people understand. He wrote “Life B Changin’” after he discovered Princess Diana had died. “It just came to me that life is a flicker. Each day, each moment is like a mini-birth. It gives you a lot of opportunity,” Adwin says. “Magic’s in my speakin’/so I’m watchin’ what I say/gots a lotsa cant’s to kill/and dragons to be slain/life b changin.’”
The first cut on the CD, “Black” inches along in the first few bars and then plunges the listener through a window of the black soul. “Black/As central avenue asphalt in 48/Black/As 36 Monk keys dancin’ between 52 ivory bones…A universe called Minton’s/Suckin’ souls into a womb a world…Meet me at the corner of blues and bliss.” “Black” is about challenging the mores and values that you grew up with, challenging what makes people afraid of going into the darkness—the subconscious, our shadow side—or attempting to view anything black in a positive light.
“Fiya” is another cut that renders the perceived invalid, picking up from the theme of “Black” and going through the tunnel, melting down the old to come away with the new. “This line,” Adwin says, “‘Winter’s come and gone/and the sun’s been hauntin’ me…The ice is melting and/the snow’s become a river’ was inspired by Lonnie Marshall of the funk band, Weapons of Choice. We were just talking about being cool and the mask of detachment, and he said ‘Man, sooner or later, all ice must melt.” Simply put, this line picks up on the theme interwoven throughout the CD, surrendering to the flow.
For someone who almost failed a high school poetry class because of his attempts to put an unheard of cultural spin on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and first used a boom box for back-up music, Adwin has come a long way. He’s brought his questions and his affinity for the mystical to the world of performance art while remaining an enigma. This keeps him from getting too serious about his work, yet allows him maneuverability. He can write a song like “Boom,” which is very comedic and move to the emotionally wrenching “Plea,” where he explores all avenues of life. “Just when you think you’ve got him figured out,” Adwin smiles, “it’s like, aw, wait a minute, this is another angle.”
“This particular album is close to me because I wanted to share my humanity,” recalls Adwin. In the past, he sometimes felt his music came off as distant and hollow. “But, when it became more personal, suddenly it became universal. Everyone has gone through times like this. Everyone has felt these emotions. I just wanted to talk to people with ‘Put Your Mind on Hold.’”
And talk he does. This native born and bred Angeleno has combined his image-laden, poetic lyrics with his own home-brewed brand of funk, jazz and blues. The result, Bluezeum: Put Your Mind on Hold, is a class act.