Sunday, March 4, 2018
© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.
A belated happy New Year to everybody! My apologies to those who have been awaiting a post from me. Yes, I've been away from the blog for some time. My life has been a little chaotic job-wise, though things have sorted themselves out recently.
I'm very pleased to announce that the first half of my Pepper Adams biography is now finished. I completed it a few days ago. It's about 100 pages. I began writing around the middle of April, 2017, upon my return from lecturing at four colleges in Utah. Looking back, I'm still amazed how I got all this done in eleven months. It sure helps to have 34 years of notes! During the next four weeks I'll be editing the manuscript, and going over my Pepper Adams interview transcript and listening to about 25 interviews, just to be sure I don't leave any important things out.
Here's an overview (finding aid) of Part I, what I call "Ascent":
Charlie Parker at the Mirror Ballroom
Move to Detroit, Rochester NY vs. Detroit
Arrival in Detroit, race relations
Detroit in the 1950s
History of Detroit, 1700-1900
History of Detroit, 1900-1950
The Music Box, Little John and His Merrymen
Getting the Berg Larsen and Selmer, Detroit's baritone history, Beans Bowles
Pepper's father in Detroit
Family's musical roots
History of Rochester
Early life in Indiana, move to Rochester
Age 4-9, father's death
Rochester musicians during World War II
Age 10-12, Everett Gates
Duke Ellington at the Temple Theatre, Rex Stewart, trip to Seattle
Ellington, Skippy Williams, classical music
Importance of elders (especially Rex Stewart), Duke Ellington
Raymond Murphy, Bob Wilber
Service in the U.S. Army, Korean War
The Blue Bird Inn
The World Stage
The West End Hotel, Klein's Show Bar
Detroit's jazz history
Thad Jones, Wardell Gray, baritone players on the scene
Obscure Detroit jazz musicians
Pepper's personality, Detroit pianists
Detroit musical education
Detroit's outlier jazz generation, Malcolm Gladwell outlier concepts related to Pepper
Pepper demo played for Prestige and Blue Note, Pepper sits in with Miles and Rollins
Stan Getz story, Pepper moves to New York City
I met with my trusted webmaster, Dan Olson, last week. We're planning important upgrades this year to pepperadams.com. New context will be added to "Radio Interviews" and "Big Band Performances." A link to a new WikiTree genealogy of Pepper Adams is planned.
I had to wipe clean the hard drive on my iPad a few months ago. By doing so, I lost my trusty app for Blogspot. If anyone has a recommendation for an app I can use that DOES NOT ask for my Google password, please let me know. It will help me format future posts.
I did submit my first section from Ch. 3 about Pepper's experience in the U.S. Army for publication in 2019. I'll let you know if it's approved. I'm
Sunday, December 3, 2017
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and that you are anticipating a great Christmas season and new year. In the last few weeks one of my readers suggested that I open my Pepper Adams biography with the story of when Pepper heard Bird at Detroit's Mirror Ballroom in 1949. I end the opening section of Ch 1 with it, in a way building to it. He felt that, because it's about Bird, it would create far greater interest among readers than what I have now. Back to the drawing board, as they say.
I've been rereading the very fine biographical primer The Biographer's Art, written by Milton Lomask. One of the things he recommends is for an author to conceive of an ending well in advance, then work your way there as a destination. I'm toying with ending my biography with Pepper's appearance on the Grammy Awards telecast. It seems to me that the way the New York chapter of NARAS rallied behind Pepper when his appearance on the show was threatened with cancellation is a metaphor for much that occurred in New York when Adams got ill. Maybe I don't need to worry that much about the ending? The way the book is set up, the second section of the book (analysis) follows mine. Is it perhaps more appropriate to have John Vana's work summarize the entire book?
Over the last few weeks I also came across this great piece about Herbie Hancock: https://onmilwaukee.com/music/articles/herbie-hancock-curros-milwaukee.html#_
Hancock discusses how he joined the ByrdAdams Quintet. Here's his only mention of Pepper:
"In December of 1960, a couple of months after the Coleman Hawkins gig, I got a call from John Cort, the owner of the Birdhouse, a small club in a second-floor walkup on Dearborn Street, on the North Side. ‘Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams are playing in Milwaukee this weekend,’ he told me. ‘You want to play with them?’ "‘Are you kidding?’ I said. ‘Yeah, I want to play with them!’ I couldn’t believe it – I’d just been invited to gig with one of the best jazz trumpeters around. Donald Byrd was a veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and he’d earned a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He’d performed with many of the jazz greats over the years, including John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, and in 1958 he’d started a quintet with the baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. That was the group I was being invited to play with."
This piece is the most in-depth one I've read about Hancock and his "discovery" by Donald Byrd. It turns out that John Cort deserves much of the credit for recommending Hancock to Byrd.
One thing that has always surprised me is how little Pepper Adams is mentioned by Hancock over the years. I know that Byrd is the one who met with Hancock's mother and assured her that young Herbie would be fine living with Byrd in New York once the band left Chicago. With that in mind, it seems likely that Pepper didn't have the same degree of responsibility for Hancock as Byrd. Still, you would think that Herbie would have absorbed some influences from Adams, perhaps his harmonic usage? It sure would be fascinating to know what kind of conversations the two of them had during the year that Herbie was in the Byrd-Adams Quintet.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
I've been in touch with curator David Demsey, and I've already boxed up twelve cartons of Pepper's material from his estate. All of the packed stuff is material that I eagerly scooped up after Pepper's death to protect it from destruction, when his widow was disposing of the contents of his house in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Much of my own materials that I've collected over the years, such as my many audience recordings, will get there eventually. The trick is figuring out a way to transport these things from Atlanta to West Paterson, New Jersey. The plan is to move everything there in phases as I finish the biography.
Some of the things that I saved from destruction that amazing day in late 1986 were Pepper's copies of alternate tracks that he recorded for Reflectory, The Master, Urban Dreams and Live at Fat Tuesday's. I've just gotten them digitized for posterity. Pepper's original cassettes will be going to William Paterson.
David Demsey and I have been discussing the provenance of the charts on the Ruth Brown/Thad/Mel date. In a private interview that Pepper did with Albert Goldman (discussed last month in this blog), Pepper mentioned that not all of the charts on the date are Thad's. Pepper affirmed that his feature on "Trouble in Mind" was written by Thad. Demsey told me that "Bye, Bye Blackbird" is Thad's too. They have the score in Thad's hand. Judging from the intro, does anyone have any doubt? We're still figuring out who wrote the other charts. Does anyone have any input on the matter?
I'm also excited to report that I've finally finished Chapter 1 of Pepper's biography. For over a month, the period 1900-1947 was a gaping hole in the chapter. Now it's been closed. It was my overarching aim to contextualize Pepper's experience by writing about the socio-political history of Detroit. Two sections (1701-1899) were done already, but writing about the first half of the Twentieth Century, so important to Pepper's sensibilities, lingered for quite some time. So much happened in Detroit then that affected the course of American history. Furthermore, Pepper worked in the auto plants, and was an impassioned advocate of social unionism. I needed to explore that to understand that part of him.
That led me to the Reuther Brothers. If you haven't seen the extraordinarily moving documentary Brothers on the Line, I urge you to watch it. Although I knew something about Walter Reuther before I watched it, I left with the strong conviction that Reuther was one of the towering figures of the Twentieth Century. If anyone should be designated for sainthood, it's Reuther. He and his two brothers' courageous work to raise the standard of living of American auto workers, in the face of all sorts of hostility, physical beatings, and assassination attempts, is the thing of legend. Do you know about his work with Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King in helping them advance their struggles for human rights, or his work with the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson? Now almost fifty years after his death (which I suspect in 2020 will be celebrated), Reuther is far too little known. Please check out the film. Here's the trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i5x5VEtZ9xk
Now it's time to finish up Chapter 3, essentially the period 1954-1955 but with some intentional twists and turns added. This will conclude the first half of my part of the book. Part II is being written by alto saxophonist John Vana. He's making great strides with his analysis of Pepper's playing.
For those who like to hear Pepper Adams speak about his life, a whole crop of new interviews with him have been posted at pepperadams.com: http://www.pepperadams.com/Interviews/index.html
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Sunday, July 2, 2017
From the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s pianist Joe Strazzeri ran Squeezer’s, his club at 420 State Street across the street from Kodak. Typically, gigs were followed by open jam sessions with white and black musicians alike. “Pepper used to stop in there and just get on the stand,” said trumpeter Leo Petix. “He was around town. He was looking to get with a group and get on the road.”106 Even though he was far from being an accomplished player, pianist John Albert heard him once in a Rochester club and felt that he had a conception of what he was doing as a soloist. “He played quite well and for a person his age (middle teens) he had already developed a style, certainly different than anyone there that day,” said Albert.107
He was playing a soprano sax. The rhythm section (I don’t recall who they were) responded to his playing. He was a good “time” player and left holes they could fill in. That’s what I remember most about his style. He would blow a single note or a phrase and then wait for the rhythm to come to the next change or even go by it, and then he would dig in and catch up with great time and ideas. This to me was different than the other horn men; they seemed to stay on top of the beat and didn’t seem to use the rhythm [section] to their best advantage or let them have some fun too on the chorus. So I guess what I heard that made him different and new was a thinner, biting sound. [He] played more notes and more interesting melodic flights and used the rhythm section like Miles Davis.108
“The musicians were half and half in their comments,” added Albert. “The horn men weren’t that