Adams grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and while attending Westmoor High School in Daly City he had already established a reputation as a musical prodigy. He had made plans to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston, but instead accepted an invitation to join Tower of Power for their first album, East Bay Grease (1970). He remained with the band for 25 years and was responsible for many of their distinctive horn arrangements, including "What Is Hip?" (1973) which earned him a Grammy Award nomination.
In 1995 Adams recorded his first solo album, Hidden Agenda (Epic), which reached #1 on the U.S. smooth jazz charts. His subsequent albums include Midnight Morning (Ripa, Blue Note) (2002), Firefly (215) (2004), and Cool To The Touch (Ripa) (2006).