If you haven’t heard Adam Rogers’ new quartet album, Apparitions [Criss Cross], you’re missing out on eight of the most provocative guitar-led compositions of 2005. The excerpt below—which occurs 30 seconds into the disc’s opening track, “Labyrinth”—is a perfect demonstration of Rogers’ near-supernatural knack for weaving intriguing harmonic tapestries out of relatively simple single-note melodies. That’s because Rogers, a veteran of the great jazz/hip hop/fusion collective Lost Tribe, is one of those rare guitarists who truly gets the concept of counterpoint.
“After coming up with the chord progression/bass line, I wanted to write two interlocking melodies over it,” reflects Rogers on the hypnotic interplay he created between the guitar and tenor saxophone (played by Chris Potter) on “Labyrinth.” “I’ve been striving to write contrapuntally ever since I started composing, so I’ve done a tremendous amount of experimentation. Also, when I was in classical music school I studied formal species counterpoint for four years—which, while not being directly related to the style of music I write, has nevertheless had a big effect.
“There are some simple ideas that formal counterpoint imparts, such as making sure that, melodically speaking, there are equal amounts of parallel and contrary motion and that the lines are not always mimicking each other rhythmically. The goal is to have two distinct melodies working off one another. Experimenting with these ideas can yield amazing results. Of course, in addition to studying formal counterpoint, I think the best way to develop a contrapuntal sense as a writer is simply to experiment with writing two melodies and see how they sound together.”