Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Remember Pepper: Ron Ley Remembers Pepper Adams and Thad Jones

Psychology professor Ron Ley was one of Pepper’s closest friends. They were neighbors in New York City in the mid-1960s and they stayed in touch throughout the years after Ley first relocated to Puerto Rico and then Albany, New York. These comments are taken from emails Ley wrote to me after I interviewed him and his wife, Cindy, in Maine in c. 1988. Pepper's composition “Cindy’s Tune” is named for Cindy Ley.


Pepper said, “Thad was just born smart.” He had respect for Thad and admiration both for his music and as a person as well. I had the good fortune of riding with the band on their tour through Scandanavia for a few days in ’77. I happened to be at the airport at the same time in Copenhagen. I was doing research for my book and I had a subject I had to interview in Edsvalla, which is outside of Karlstad. The band was going to Karlstad and Pepper knew this beforehand. 

I met the band at the airport. Our flights arrived at the same time. As I went through customs there was the band. I went into town and stayed at the same hotel and from there Thad and Mel invited me to join them on the bus and travel up through Sweden to Stockholm and then to Karlstad. It was an exciting trip—not for the guys in the band who were kind of worn by all the travel. But it was a very insightful trip because I had a chance to see Thad in a light which I had never seen him before: the day-to-day, minute-to-minute kinds of ways in which he dealt with the musicians in the band. He was very relaxed and unlike many of the classic bandleaders of the ’40s who were strict taskmasters. He was very loose with the guys. He would make a lot of jokes. They all liked him. It was a very convivial relationship. He was one of the guys. But you knew he was the man, the boss of the scene. They all had the utmost respect for Thad. They knew him as a musician who knew about what it’s like to be a sideman in the band because he had done it for so many years. 

He was more like the big brother rather than the master and his interpersonal relationships were awfully skillful. He was very good at managing people. With musicians you have a lot of temperamental people, all of whom aspire to be stars in their own right. Then, of course, you have to keep all these folks on time, get them here, get them there and so forth. Of course you had Mel there too to help out. Do you know what it’s like to be on the road? It’s very, very tiresome. Long rides on a rotten bus and then you suddenly have to go on the ’stand and perform. They might have skipped dinner or stay at a rotten place.

Thad sat in the front of the bus. Mel sat on one side, Thad on the other. Thad had a “box” on his lap and he’d be listening to music. He might do something like, “Hey, listen to this!” and he’d lift the box up and play something for the guys. He might pull out some food that he had tucked away in a bag and pass some cheese around. Little things that indicated some concern about their well-being.   

In the sense that they shared responsibilities, Mel simply didn’t have the authority. Mel had more of the management role: finding the gigs for the band, doing interviews with people who would be making financial arrangements and accommodations, financial arrangements. Thad never touched that. Thad did the musical part and Mel took care of the business is essentially the way the band was arranged and I suspect this is the reason that Thad and Mel became partners in the first place. Mel had a lot of connections in California as well as New York. Thad would say, “Give me a ‘yard,’” and the band boy, who was the manager of the band, would reach in his pocket and pull out a wad of bills and give Thad a hundred bucks.

Thad and Pepper had the quintet before the band and some of the things that Thad had written for the quintet in fact became classics that the band played. One of them especially that sticks in my memory that I like very much is “Mean What You Say.” There was the Quintet and then suddenly Mel came on the scene. It was curious. 

Pepper had told Thad and Mel that he was going to leave the band at the end of the tour. This was the summer of ’77. Claudette was with him. In fact, that was the problem! 

My impression is that Claudette had ambitions for Pepper. She saw that he was a talent who was not getting the recognition that he should and she was going to do something by way of promoting it. I think that she saw that there wasn’t much future by way of being the baritone saxophone player with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band. This is something that bothered Pepper for a long time too because he didn’t get any feature status. It wasn’t “Thad Jones-Mel Lewis featuring Pepper Adams on Baritone Sax,” which it could have been.

[Claudette] saw that there wasn’t a future there by way of his receiving the recognition that he deserved, as long as he was playing with the band, and I think that she may have told him that what he needs to do is break from the band. But I think what happened was that Pepper would have stayed with the band, but what he wanted them to do was to call it “Thad Jones-Mel Lewis featuring Pepper Adams.” They wouldn’t do it. I think Mel told me this: that they had made a policy when they first began the band that they wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t have anybody in the band that would be a featured soloist. It was an all-star band in every sense. Jerry Dodgion was the only one who was left from the original band when Pepper left.

Pepper was rather bitter at this point. I’m sure he had a terrible conflict in his own hands because he liked and admired Thad so much. He couldn’t possibly say a word to Thad about this. In fact there was nothing said between the two of them about any of this. It wasn’t discussed and Mel bore the brunt of Pepper’s hostility at this point because he was doing more of the business management aspects. 

So Claudette decided she wanted to go home. The band was traveling as a group. I guess they had special group rates, probably APEX tickets or something like that for their arrivals and departures from Europe. I think they picked up their money along the way. They didn’t get very much by the way of advance money and the money was all in the hands of the band manager. Claudette wanted to go back to the States and Pepper wanted her ticket. The argument was, “We can’t give you her ticket because she has to go back when the band is scheduled to leave Europe. And then he lost the argument about, “Well give us the amount of money equal to the price of the ticket.” Then there was this great concern because, “We can’t just trade the ticket in and get the money for it.” It was a terrible scene. I think she was going to leave from Stockholm. This was just a lie (“layover” better?) The band went from Stockholm up to practically the Arctic Circle and then I think they went as far south as Italy. It wasn’t near the end of the tour.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I Remember Pepper: Per Husby Remembers Pepper Adams

Norwegan pianist Per Husby worked with Pepper Adams from 1975 until 1984 and stayed in touch with him until the end of Pepper's life in 1986. In 1988, while on vacation in Australia, Husby tape recorded his recollections of Adams and mailed me a copy. Below is a transcription I did of Husby's account. While typing it up I could hear the Pacific ebbing and flowing behind Husby's narration. As you will read, Husby has a excellent memory for detail and his observations offer a very special glimpse into Pepper Adams as a musician and person.


The first time I met Pepper was probably in 1975 when he came to Trondheim where I worked at that time. He was actually the first American soloist that I ever played with, which was a good man to start with because Pepper had an extremely friendly way of handling people. I remember he had a few pieces of penciled sheet music with him, not really the average, professional copyist way of writing things. 

When I wrote out music for him later he always played his parts in C. It’s funny: I never met another baritone player that liked to have the chords in concert, as they would be written for a piano rather than transposed for the baritone. I don’t know why he did this but it was always the case.

I think he sensed that we were pretty “green.” He was putting his baritone together, an old baritone which was almost green in places. I said, “Oh, that’s a very old baritone.” He looked at me. He hadn’t put the top end on so I said, “Oh, it’s not complete yet.” I’m not quite sure if he thought that I was even greener, that I thought the horn was supposed to be like that, with a big hole on the top! But he was very friendly.

We were playing a blues at the concert and I remember quoting “C Jam Blues.” All the time we were soloing he would go down to the first row and sit listening to us. He came up and whispered in my ear, “Yeah, ‘C Jam Blues,’ yeah,” something that I thought was very encouraging, even if I knew it was a silly quote. 

Much later he did the “Muppet’s Show” as a favorite quote. The first time he did that was in Norway at a concert where we played “I Got Rhythm.” For the out chorus he suddenly dived into the Muppet’s Show tune and did the whole tune on rhythm changes, complete with that very last low note and that curious look into his horn that he does. He had never done that before. It was just a spur of the moment thing that he did as a comedy act. It went over very well with the audience. 

Just before Trondheim he had been playing in Oslo with Sture Nordin, a bass player that I know quite well. Pepper had been invited to his home to have Lutefisk, a traditional Norwegian dish. Pepper was talking about that all the time afterwards, that he wanted to have Lutefisk again. Actually, he came to like both Sture and his wife very much. When I met Pepper later, if he didn’t meet him beforehand, he always asked, “How’s Sture?” 

While he was there, Sture had a crisis in his marriage. Sture told Pepper about the difficulties, that they planned to split up. Soon after Pepper went back to the States, Sture’s wife got a long letter from Pepper in which Pepper wrote about the way he felt by meeting the two of them; that he thought it was a shame that they should split because he certainly felt that there was something there to cherish, which actually resulted in Sture and his wife not splitting up. 

We were playing this gig somewhere in Norway. We had done the last number and I think Pepper wanted to go to bed. He actually started packing his horn. I think the bass player started playing a riff because people were crying out for an encore. Pepper looked a bit cross at that because, when he was packing his horn, that was it. But Pepper had to unpack his horn and I saw that he didn’t really like this. The bass player was stupid enough to say, “Maybe we should play a blues in a different key?” Pepper said, “OK, D-flat,” and went into a horrendous tempo. He could cut it but none of us could. He didn’t do it for long, just for a couple of choruses, then, bang!, ended. The audience didn’t notice that we just played nonsense but the lesson came off. It wasn’t the thing to do for the rhythm section to start setting up an encore when he was very actively signaling that he didn’t want to play.     

After that we did a tour in Norway with myself, Bjorn Alterhaug on bass and Espen Rud on drums. I think we did eight or ten gigs around the country. We never recorded anything for radio. As for money, Pepper wasn’t really an expensive guy to hire. He used to say, “If I can go home with a $1,000 per week in my pocket, I’m happy.” The Finnish piano player Esko Linnavalli once said to me when we talked about Pepper, “You know, Pepper doesn’t know anything about money. He’s one of the few people that we can still hire.” What he meant was that Pepper wasn’t trying to pull more money from people than he needed, that he was one of the few who were still in it for the music.

The tour started in Stavanger. Pepper came in, jet lag and all, and was not in a very good mood. We said, “OK, let’s just have a short rehearsal of tunes that we know and then tomorrow we’ll have a rehearsal for the tour.” That’s what we did. I don’t know if he even picked up his horn. He said, “Do you know this tune, do you know this tune?” and so on. He said, “Do you know ‘Embraceable You?’” I hadn’t played that for a while but I thought the bass player had, so I said, “Oh, Yes” and the bass player said, “Oh, Yes.” We didn’t think more about it. We all went out for dinner, slept a little after that and we went right to the gig. For the second tune Pepper called “Embraceable You.” It turned out that the bass player had thought that I knew the tune, and I had thought the bass player knew the tune, so we didn’t know it well enough to play it. Pepper was very angry about that. He said, “You said that you knew it!” He was mumbling and swearing to himself. He hated any kind of conceit; people that tried to lay on him something that they weren’t or couldn’t. I think he was very much after honesty, people that were straight. 

The thing he never forgot was that I promised him this salary of maybe $1,200 a week. I said, “I don’t think it’s very much but we haven’t got everything set just now, so, if there is any extra money when we do the books at the end I’ll send you some after you come home.” That actually happened. I sent him about $1,000 about a month after the tour had ended. I don’t think Pepper ever forgot that because apparently he had heard this from so many people—people saying that maybe we can get you some more and it never materialized—and suddenly he got $1,000 out of the blue from Norway. I think that’s one of the reasons he liked playing with us. The other reason: I think he stated in that Down Beat interview that we were nice to travel with. We didn’t get drunk on stage and we didn’t apply the American superego or anything like that. We just wanted to make a good job out of it. 

I know he sort of took a liking to us. This must have been in ’77 or ’78 because I remember visiting him in the States in ’78 after that tour. I came over to his house in Brooklyn and Claudette and Pepper served dinner. A curious thing about Pepper: he would talk to you for a while and then suddenly fall silent. He would look straight-ahead and you wouldn’t quite know what to say to him. I didn’t know if he was just thinking or if he thought I was boring or whatever. He suddenly seemed to drop off in thought. 

We did quite a bit of sightseeing on the next tour with Arild Andersen on bass, Espen Rud on drums and Kenny Wheeler on trumpet for some of the gigs. I asked Pepper, “How do you like Kenny Wheeler?” Pepper said, “I really like his playing.” I said, “Have you ever played together?” Pepper said, “No, but I’d like to.” I said, “It sounds to me that it would be an interesting combination.” Then I asked Kenny and he said the same thing about Pepper so I got the gig together. 

Pepper was very strong musically in all respects but I think he needed to be within the confines of the type of jazz that he was brought up with. Kenny Wheeler brought out some ballads and things that he had written that are based on quite different chord progressions from what would be your normal bebop chord progressions and, to be honest about it, Pepper played some awful choruses—really wrong notes—on some of these things. The funny thing is that he played them with vigor and there was no hesitation or anything. It was just wrong. I was very surprised that Pepper couldn’t handle some of Kenny’s ballads. He really didn’t find out how to play them.

He had a new horn at the time. I don’t know what happened to his old one. Particularly in the upper register he would play as vigorously and strong as ever but incredibly out of tune. We never quite figured out the mechanics behind this because he was very wary of things like that under other circumstances. He would repeatedly play these high notes, and they would be so awfully out of tune but he didn’t seem to mind. Maybe he was trying out his new horn and wasn’t used to it but it wasn’t natural for him to do the easy solution or play soft just to try it out. He just went for it. He did it full blast and ugly rather than hesitating. I don’t think Pepper would ever hesitate about anything musically. I think this goes together with his opinionated way of thinking about other musicians and other types of music. Very much black and white.             

Pepper had a way of being uncompromising about things. Things were either good or bad. Some players couldn’t play. I talked to him about Serge Chaloff and Pepper just turned around to me and said, “Are we talking about baritone saxophonists or are we not?” I asked him about it and he said, “Did you ever hear Serge Chaloff swing?” He posed the question in such a way that it was impossible to say, “Yes.” In his mind Serge Chaloff didn’t swing and nobody with any sense of jazz could think differently. That’s the way he put it. To him it was basically Harry Carney. I don’t think he was too fond of Mulligan either.

Sometimes Pepper was very cocksure about things. For the tour with Kenny Wheeler, which we did some years later, I had written out some charts. Some were tunes from a couple of Pepper’s earliest albums and there were a couple of others. I had written out a Mingus thing, “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk.” I remember I gave him and Kenny these parts. Pepper just had a glance at them and sort of discarded them one by one. About the Mingus tune he said, “We’d spend two days rehearsing this.” I don’t think we would have; we’d probably spend ten minutes and have it down but he obviously didn’t like to play it. As for the others, he said, “We’ll never get a job with—” and then he mentioned the name of some copyist agency in New York, meaning that my music was not really legible, that my writing wasn’t pretty. I don’t think it has ever been pretty but it hasn’t been illegible either. Probably he didn’t want to play them but he didn’t want to say that. He didn’t say this in an unfriendly way. Sometimes he would say these things in a gruff, not-really-unfriendly way but very much decided on.

Pepper always brought his camera along. On the tour with Kenny we did about thirty one-nighters all around Norway. We had beautiful weather. We were passing through some of Norway’s most beautiful parts, some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Pepper would take his camera out and he would never take one single picture of the scenery. He would always take a picture of details, like a part of a boat’s hull or maybe a window in an old building. Arild, Espun and I were amused at this. Watching Pepper taking his camera out became a game. We sat there and would always say, “He has to take a picture of the scenery.” Then he would go over and take a picture of something incomprehensible: a flower or maybe the corner of a bridge. 

We were in Svolvaer in northern Norway. It was not Midnight Sun but it was a very red sunset, with these incredible peaks and stuff all around us. We had seen it all before but we came out of one of these small planes and said, “Wow!” Pepper came after us and he stood there on the runway looking around. He said, “Yeah!” took out his camera, and we said, “Finally he’ll take a scenery shot.” He didn’t. He went over and took a picture of a fire hydrant. We never asked him about this.

I didn’t talk too much to Pepper about music. We spoke a little bit about various other forms of music and life in general. I remember one musical discussion I had with him was whether melody or rhythm was the basic part of jazz. I said, “Melody” and Pepper just gave up on me. He said, “You can play a bad melody with great rhythm and it sounds great but a good melody with bad rhythm is always horrible.” I think he sung Ellington’s “Johnny Come Lately” to me, snapping his fingers, demonstrating how the tune itself was ridiculous without the rhythm. I still don’t know if I agree with him but, again, he was just cutting me off. Rhythm was the most important part, then melody. There was no question about it.  

Many times on the tour when Espen and I would go out for a nightcap somewhere, or to a party, Arild and Pepper would get together in somebody’s room over a bottle of Aquavit and sit discussing Ellington, music, whatever. I think they got along very well. Pepper loved Aquavit and got awfully drunk on it. 

Arild came in instead of Bjorn Alterhaug, who had done the first tour. Bjorn is a very accomplished “straight” bass player. Ben Webster used to love playing with him and I know Pepper loved to play with him too. Arild is slightly more modern so it took Arild a little while to get used to playing more bebop stuff. Pepper came over to me after the first gig and said, ”I think I would have preferred Bjorn but he’ll come along.” I could see that he sort of took Arild under his wing, tried to get to know him, tried to be personal and nice to him, which made Arild feel very good. After some gigs, Arild was right there with it. 

It was also on one of these gigs that Pepper told me his philosophy about encores. I think he got this from Thad Jones. He said, “Never, ever play a fast encore. You should always play an encore that’s sort of medium tempo so that after you finish they will never want to hear another one.” He always played “Three And One” or something like that.

He also did this thing, I think in Voss, that he said he also had picked up from Thad. Pepper came over to us, just after the first set one night, looking very stern and said, “Men, I’ll have to see you. There’s a meeting in my room in five minutes.” Then he just disappeared. We were all a bit scared. We hurried up to his room and there he was, with a big smile, sitting with a whole bottle of bourbon and glasses for the whole band. “Sit down, have a drink,” he said. 

When Pepper wanted to have a drink with the band—to be nice to the band or celebrate—he would call a “band conference.” That was the whole point of it. Apparently this was code that Thad and he had used for many years. Everybody in the band would know, and it was just an excuse for having a drink and saying, “This is good.” We didn’t know that so we were a bit scared the first time he did it.

We played “Bye Bye Blackbird” in Vads√∂, far north, just by the Russian border. I know Red Garland’s piano introduction from the Miles version so I did that. Pepper played his solo and, when we got to my solo, I sort of did my Red Garland impersonation, Espen started playing the rim shot on every fourth beat and Arild took out his bow and did a bowed chorus √† la Paul Chambers. We all had a gas. Pepper came over to us afterward and said, “Guys, that was great. Don’t do that again.” He was probably right. It was good there and then, as an on-the-spur-of-the-moment thing, but nothing else.                     

After that I didn’t see Pepper for a while. I wrote him a card or letter every now and then. We had a little bit of correspondence going, mostly postcards from all over the world. Pepper would always write these postcards. At the end he always wrote the Norwegian word “Skol!” 

I asked him to be a guest soloist on one or two tunes on an album that I eventually did some years ago. I remember he was very vague about what he would charge. I think he knew that I didn’t have too much money, and he wanted to help out and not charge too much, but it never materialized.

I think the last time I saw him must have been in ’84. We did six or seven gigs. This was after he was run over by his own car. He had this old Volvo that, when I saw it, had been driven about 500,000 kilometers. He said, “This car is good. Why should I change it?” He had parked the car up on the driveway and he had gone down to the cellar to open the garage door. His car came after him because he hadn’t done the hand-braking properly. He got pinned against the garage door and the bumper broke both his legs. He was stuck there for so long because the only guy who came by couldn’t help him because he didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.

So when he came to Norway he was not really looking too good. Physically he was about the same. He was never your Johnny Weissmuller type. He stayed at my house. Once, when we were playing in Trondheim, I saw him at 11am standing there looking drowsy in slightly-oversized white underpants with not too many muscles in his body. I thought, “This is really bizarre. This guy is one of the most powerful baritone players in the world.” It didn’t really rhyme with the figure standing there. 

I remember playing Sonny Rollins’ latest album for him. I asked him, “How do you like that?” He said, “I don’t like Sonny Rollins ‘Superstar.’” He never approved of Rollins’ way of coming back and, in his mind, playing to a wider audience. Pepper would never dream of doing that. 

I don’t think Pepper was very happy about things in general. I didn’t speak to him too much about it but I could feel that he was thin-skinned. I remember we played one place where the sound was all right but I couldn’t hear the piano too well and the baritone was a little too high in the monitors. I asked the sound engineer, “Could you please turn the piano a bit up and the baritone a little down?” which he did. Unfortunately, I didn’t tell Pepper about this. When we started playing the second half, he played about twelve bars of the first tune and then started swearing into the mike, “Where’s the fucking engineer? Hell, everything sounded great. The fucking engineer. . .” He was really going on about it. I couldn’t understand why he reacted so vehemently. He was really blowing his top. There was nothing that happened before that night that should have inaugurated that sort of thing.  

I don’t think he knew that he was ill at the time. Physically he was quite shattered from the breaking of the two legs. This was in winter, so he was sliding about with these old-time galoshes on. Again, he looked very far from being your hip baritone player; rather like some office clerk around sixty, looking older than he was, staggering around on ice and snow. He was still playing very well, though this thing about playing out of tune on ballads was still there. I can’t remember having heard that on albums. 

He was in great pain and didn’t sleep at night because of his legs. I have a friend in Oslo who works with acupuncture and she tried to help him. She did acupuncture on him and he said it helped. He told me that he had asked Frida, who he got very fond of, to write everything down in “acupuncture language,” as he called it, so he could take it home to New York and see somebody there to follow up with the same thing. Acupuncture was a revelation to Pepper because I don’t think he believed in that sort of stuff, if it was acupuncture or Taro cards or whatever. 

He knew about all these things. He was probably one of the most informed people I’ve ever met—on any topic. I remember we once were in a very desolate train station in Norway waiting for a connecting train. We were bored, sitting reading the paper. There was just a waiting room with nothing that we could find to do. But Pepper was going around, having a great time. He was trying to identify four or five very bad reproductions on the walls that had been there for thirty years. Pepper came over and said, “Come on over and dig that beautiful, bleached-out half Velazquez.”

The last Norwegian guy I know that was in contact with him was Sture. That was after he was in for treatment of cancer. Sture was in New York and Pepper was very sick. He didn’t want Sture to come out to his house but he said he’d drive him to the airport when he left. But then Pepper contacted Sture and said he wasn’t feeling too good, that he didn’t want to see anybody at all.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet: New Discoveries

I was startled this week to discover a file of magazine ads for Pepper Adams gigs that Frank Basile sent me on 20 December 2011. Maybe he sent it as a Christmas gift? I completely forgot about the file but found it on my old laptop that I haven't used in quite some time. Basile's research includes almost 50 clippings, mostly from the New York Times, Billboard, the Village Voice and New York magazine. 

The value of these documents is how they position Adams in time and reveal the breadth of his work and the nature of his professional relationships. Several documents have already gotten me to change the historical record, especially as they relate to Pepper's discography. I've also had to shift my thinking about the Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet.

Before reviewing Basile's material, it seemed that the Quintet was disbanded in favor of the orchestra. Yes, the Quintet had a few gigs here and there, but they seemed to be mostly clustered in the mid- to late-60s around the time of the 1966 Mean What You Say date for Milestone. Judging from the new data below, however, it's now clear that Thad and Pepper (with Mel Lewis) sustained the quintet for more than eleven years while working together in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

These documents also reveal how producers and club owners capitalized on the success of the orchestra by billing the Jones-Adams Quintet as the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet" or the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet featuring Pepper Adams." One of the first examples of this was the 1968 Japanese release of Mean What You Say. According to Jerry Dodgion, Pepper had a chance to see the Japanese version of the LP when the Jones-Lewis Orchestra first visited Japan in the summer of 1968. That's when Pepper discovered that the record company had changed the name of the group to the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet." Pepper was livid! It's one thing to alter the band leadership on a placard or table tent for a one-nighter. It another thing entirely to do it on a recording. Has anyone seen this release? It might've been released on Milestone via a licensee. 

For years Pepper wanted to form a quintet with Thad Jones. After working together on a cluster of projects  Pepper Adams Plays the Music of Charlie Mingus (1963, Motown), an unissued 1963 date for Motown that I've been trying to get Universal to release, and Oliver Nelson's 1964 classic More Blues and the Abstract Trut– Thad and Pepper finally established a working group in 1965, only to be usurped later that year by the orchestra. More than anything Pepper wanted to work in a small group where he could blow. He was tired of sitting in saxophone sections. Adams, in fact, was very disappointed that Thad established the big band. He resisted joining. About that, see Doc Holladay's commentary in Pepper Adams' Joy Road regarding the formation of the big band and Pepper's hesitancy to be a full-time member.

Apart from listings about Thad Jones, there's lots of surprises below. The 1977 Cuban trip was an important discovery, something that David Amram didn't discuss with me when I interviewed him. It helps explain why Paquito D'Rivera was so glowing in his praise about Pepper when I interviewed him. 

The continued relationship of Pepper and Phil Woods is underscored. Did you know that the bari chair in Woods' octet was conceived for Pepper? Pepper passed away before the group got going and Nick Brignola got the gig. 

The twin-bari 1981 gig with Ronnie Cuber might've been what led them to try to establish a group and book a series of gigs. That never materialized but imagine if tapes of some of these things turn up? 

Here's 29 Frank Basile discoveries that are not already listed in the pepperadams.com Chronology (http://www.pepperadams.com/Chronology/Thaddeus.html) or included in my unpublished updates:

1960
Apr 3: San Francisco: Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd appear on "Jazz Audition," Russ Wilson's evening radio show on KJAZ.

1965
Aug 12: New York: Tony Scott gig for Jazzmobile on 129th Street, with Joe Thomas, Jimmy Nottingham, Marshall Brown, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson.

1966
Sept 2: New York: Milt Jackson gig at Town Hall, backed by 15-piece band (including Howard McGhee, Jimmy Owens, Julius Watkins, Benny Powell, James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Clifford Jordan) that mostly performed Heath arrangements.

1968
June 15: Staten Island NY: Outdoor concert at Daytop Village, with Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and possibly Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster and Milt Jackson.

Dec 1: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Town Hall.

1969
Mar 16: New York: Duke Pearson Big Band at the Village Vanguard.

1970
c. Nov: New York: Dick Lavsky jingles with Joe Wilder, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Walt Levinsky, Tommy Newsom and Roland Hanna.

1971
Mar 11: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Town Hall.

May 11-16: New York: Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet, billed as "The Big Little Jazz Band," play a week at the Village Vanguard. Rhythm section: Roland Hanna, Richard Davis and Mel Lewis.


Oct. 29: New York: Rod Levitt octet at the Jazz Center, with Jimmy Nottingham and Jerry Dodgion.

1972
c. Jan 11-16: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Slugs.

1973
Sept 19: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra gig aboard a chartered Staten Island Ferry, sponsored by Festival on the River.

Nov 11: Brooklyn NY: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at the Academy of Music.

1975
Jan 18: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at NFE Theater.

July 14: Mahwah NJ: Phil Woods septet at Ramapo College, with Jay Leonhart and Frankie Dunlop.

1976
Mar 9: New York: Gig at Eddie Condon's.

May 16: Wayne NJ: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at William Paterson College's Shea Center.


June 6: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Eddie Condon's.

Oct 22: New York: Nancy Wilson with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Nov 14: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Eddie Condon's.

1977
Jan 27, 28 or 29: Glassboro NJ: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Glassboro State College Jazz Festival.

Mar 20: Berkeley CA: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the University of California.

May: Havana, Cuba: Adams, Thad Jones, David Amram and others perform with Cuban musicians as part of an historic U.S.-Cuban cultural exchange mission.


June 17-18: West Paterson NJ: Gig at Three Sisters.

Dec 16-17: West Paterson NJ: Gig at Three Sisters.

1978
c. Oct 18: New York: Pepper Adams gives a talk abut his life in jazz at Jazzmania. Carla Bley, Chico Hamilton, Adams and Red Rodney were the first musicians invited to give talks about their lives as part of a new Wednesday evening series "Meet the Musician."

1979
Feb 23-24: West Paterson NJ: Pepper Adams at Three Sisters.

1980
Apr 19: New York: Gig at Symphony Space, sponsored by the Universal Jazz Coalition, to raise funds for the Louis Armstrong Jazz Center. Other participants include Vic Dickenson, Roland Hanna, Sam Jones, Sheila Jordan, Norris Turney and Waren Vache.

1981
Feb 6-7: New York: Pepper Adams-Ronnie Cuber Quartet at Jazzmania.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Reissuing The Master and Ephemera

Happy Labor Day Weekend to all those reading this in the U.S. I've made some progress trying to get The Master and Ephemera reissued. The main imperative for reissuing The Master is to release four unissued tracks. Pepper's Ephemera, for its part, has never been issued on CD! Motema is considering the former and I'm in touch with Tony Williams, owner of Spotlite, about the latter. I'll report back when I learn more. The photos below are from my Pepper Adams archive. They're part of a stack of some 50 photos that were given to Pepper so he could choose an album cover photo. They were taken in London in September 1973.



Saturday, August 23, 2014

instagram.com/pepperadamsblog

I've spent the last week putting together a very cool gallery of 112 pictures from a wide range of sources. It includes photographs of Pepper Adams and his family, ads for gigs and all sorts of things. Lots of surprises from my collection. Please check it out: instagram.com/pepperadamsblog
Feel free to tap any photo, then like it or comment.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Otra Vez: Thad's Second Joe Williams Date Reassessed

I'm finally getting a chance to listen closely to the recording Something Old, New and Blue, originally recorded by Solid State in late April, 1968. It was billed as "Joe Williams and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra but the big band per se is not on it. In fact, the largest instrumentation on any one of the eleven tunes is 11 pieces, and that includes guitar and vibes, not part of the touring band at that time. The date was recorded in Los Angeles and supplemented with a string section. It's not known who did the string arrangements, possibly added after the session was recorded but beautifully integrated into the band arrangement.

The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra was in San Francisco on 22 April 1968 to do a TV broadcast at KQED Studios for Ralph J. Gleason's show Jazz Casual. This 30-minute episode has been released on DVD (Idem 1014) and on CD (Koch 8563). The personnel touring the West Coast at that time was:

Thad Jones cornet, flh; Snooky Young, Danny Moore, Richard Williams, Randy Brecker tp; Bob Brookmeyer vtb; Jimmy Knepper, Garnett Brown tb; Benny Powell btb; Jerome Richardson as, ss, cl, fl; Jerry Dodgion as, ss, fl; Seldon Powell ts; Eddie Daniels ts, cl, fl; Pepper Adams bs, cl; Roland Hanna p; Richard Davis b; Mel Lewis dm.

The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra had a week-long engagement at Marty's in Hollywood beginning that evening, stretching from the 22nd to the 27th. I believe Jerry Dodgion told me that the band didn't get paid for that week gig. Pepper, for his part, had a gig in Richmond, Virginia with the Duke Pearson Big Band on 28 April, then he was back in his chair behind the pole at the Village Vanguard on Monday night, 29 April.

It seems likely that Thad would draw players from his band for the Joe Williams session. Why use unknown entities? Frank Basile feels that Mel Lewis is on the date and that Jerome Richardson and Eddie Daniels might take solos. If Pepper's on any tunes, says Basile, he's only on three cuts: One More for My Baby, Everybody Loves My Baby and When I Take My Sugar to Tea. Here's my feedback after listening to these short performances, possibly intended for juke box, 45-rpm release:

1. Young Man on the Way Up: According to David Demsey, Thad wrote this chart and it sounds like it. It also sounds like Mel Lewis is playing drums.

2. Hurry on Down: Obbligato flugelhorn playing behind the opening vocals could be Thad Jones. Piano playing could be Roland Hanna.

3. When I Take My Sugar to Tea: Sounds like a Thad chart. Freddie Green style rhythm guitar playing. The short trumpet solo spots sound like Snooky Young.

4. Honeysuckle Rose: Organ in place of piano. Does anyone know of Roland Hanna playing the instrument? Hank Jones and Wynton Kelly recorded on it so why not? The organ break is very non-descript.

5. Did I Really Live: Opening flugelhorn playing could be Thad Jones. The chart sounds like Thad had a part in it and farmed out the strings to fill in afterwards, which have in this case a "Bird with String" lush romanticism. The long bass notes sound like Richard Davis.

6. Loneliness, Sorrow and Grief: This also sounds like a Thad chart. The piano solo break is non-descript. Very brief tenor playing and muted trumpet in background.

7. Imagination: Guitar and organ. Organ lines could be Roland Hanna. Flugelhorn obbligato might be Thad. Tenor solo behind vocals sound like Eddie Daniels' lacy style, and the guitar chords (behind vocals in a duet setting) sound like it could be Kenny Burrell here. Some of the band figures sound like Thad's writing.

8. One More for My Baby: Vibes added. Terry Gibbs was in LA then, right? Who else would Thad hire? Guitar might be Burrell, who I believe was living there by then too. Guitar is given prominence in this chart, further supporting someone like Burrell in the band. The chart definitely sounds like Thad's. It also sounds like Jerome Richardson on lead alto and on the alto breaks. Piano arpeggios sound like Roland Hanna.

9. Everyone Wants to Be Loved: Organ added in place of piano. This sounds like a Thad chart.

10. Everybody Loves My Baby: The most obvious Thad chart from the opening and throughout. Vibes and guitar added. Prominent use of guitar in the chart.

11. If I Were a Bell: This also sounds like a Thad chart.

Final comments: Joe Williams is terrific throughout and there's some swinging tunes and beautiful moments. I recommend picking this one up. A real obscure gem!  I'm revising my discographical entry from Pepper Adams' Joy Road thusly:

JOE WILLIAMS AND THAD JONES - SOMETHING OLD, NEW AND BLUE
680423
23-27 April 1968, Los Angeles: possible personnel: Thad Jones flh; Snooky Young tp, flh; Garnett Brown, Jimmy Knepper or Benny Powell tb; Jerome  Richardson as; Eddie Daniels ts; Pepper Adams bs; Roland Hanna p, org; Kenny Burrell g; Terry Gibbs vib; Richard Davis b; Mel Lewis dm; Joe Williams voc; string section.




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Michael Steinman Review and Discovery

Michael Steinman gave me a terrific review in his influential blog Jazz Lives (http://jazzlives.wordpress.com/author/jazzlives/, see below). At the end of his August 5, 2014 post he tantalized me with the discovery of an audience recording he made on July 19, 1972 at the Half Note in New York. Ruby Braff was leading a quartet with Dill Jones, George Mraz and Dottie Dodgion. Toward the end of the evening Pepper sat in on a blues. It's not known why Pepper traveled in from Brooklyn on a Wednesday.

PEPPER ADAMS’ JOY ROAD: AN ANNOTATED DISCOGRAPHY by GARY CARNER

I had not known much about baritone saxophonist / composer Pepper Adams before a friend lent me a copy of Gary Carner’s book on him (now in paperback from Scarecrow Press) but I commend both Pepper and the book to you.

JOY ROAD 2

First, some music — an excerpt from an uptempo STRAIGHT, NO CHASER with Clark Terry, recorded in 1978:

The book is well-researched, rather than opinion.  Not only did its author speak with Pepper and JOY ROAD is introduced by the eminent Dan Morgenstern, but no other book I know has enthusiastic blurbs from both Phil Woods (alto) and Philip Levine (poetry).

JOY ROAD is an annotated discography.  To those not deeply involved in the music, such a work may seem a collection of marginally-useful pieces of arcane information, suitable only to those strange creatures, “record collectors,” concerned with whether that Charlie Parker solo recorded on a cardboard disc was issued on a Bolivian compact disc. I am exaggerating, but not that much.

But as an annotated bibliography would tell us a great deal about the artistic life of a writer and her relations with the marketplace, an annotated listing of a musician’s recordings would map an artistic journey. The book does not purport to be a biography — Carner is working on one now and hopes it will be finished by Adams’ centennial — but it is full of information about Adams’ life and music from 1947 to his death in 1986.  And that information is more than listings of songs, original compositions, recording data, issued or unissued performances. What makes Carner’s book more than a useful reference work is the interviews he conducted with Pepper and the people who knew and worked with him.

When I received a copy of JOY ROAD, I opened it at random, out of curiosity. I had not been terribly involved in Adams’ work — coming from a long immersion in Harry Carney and Ernie Caceres, among others.  But I stood in the middle of the living room, reading eagerly for a half hour, before remembering that a) I could sit down, and b) other tasks had to be taken care of.  If a book can “stop me in my tracks,” it is one I will read, keep, and value.

Many jazz musicians, so eloquent as creators, grow reticent when asked to speak about their art and their colleagues.  Much of what is published as treasured narrative is frankly insubstantial: “Oh, she liked her drink after the set was through!” “Did I ever tell you the story of X at the diner and what he said to the waiter?” “Y couldn’t stand Z, and always called Z names, but when they got on the stand, they blew!” If we didn’t feel that our heroes were so precious that any scrap of anecdotage, no matter how thin, brought us a step closer, no one would retell such stories. But JOY ROAD is not a collection of shards and detritus important only because they connect with someone we value. Carner’s musicians have been unsually articulate, and their stories have shape and heft.

We read about a bizarre and satisfying gig (even televised) where Pepper, David Amram, and Elvin Jones played at a Horn and Hardart automat in midtown Manhattan; Hank Jones tells Carner, “I never felt I was up to his standards, to tell you the truth.  I was reaching to play along with him”; we learn of Adams’ early work with Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman; encounters with Alfred Lion, Joihn Hammond, and Rudy Van Gelder; concert performances with Mingus and Monk; encounters with younger European musicians and elders of the tribe including Fess Williams, Cozy Cole, Joe Wilder, Benny Carter, Milt Hinton; the birth and development of the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra; an informal session in Eugene H. Smith’s loft with Adams playing piano to Zoot Sims’ tenor; recordings with Donald Byrd, Oliver Nelson, Duke Pearson, Blue Mitchell, Jimmy Rowles, Joshua Breakstone, and a hundred other notables.

Equally intriguing are glimpses into the life of a valued New York session player, for Adams was understandably in-demand for pop recordings, often as an uncredited member of the ensemble, with Aretha Franklin, Dakota Staton, Sonny and Cher, The Cowsills, The Nice, The Rascals, Brook Benton, Jon Lucien, Esther Phillips, film soundtracks, industrial films, and more.

Ultimately, JOY ROAD did a number of things for me, even though my first reading of this 550-plus page book was of necessity quick rather than deep. I found recordings I’d known nothing about — Carner has had access to Adams’ personal appointment book, and has spoken with more than a hundred musicians. But more than that, I have a sense of Adams as an individual — reading Dostoevsky, listening to Berg, encouraging younger musicians, fierce when he felt unjustly treated — and I look forward to the biography, which Carner is tentatively calling In Love with Night.

I will close with my single Pepper Adams sighting. In 1972, several friends and I followed Ruby Braff to gigs.  Although Ruby was unpredictable and unreasonably given to rage, he was always pleasant to us and allowed us to tape-record him. On July 19 of that year, my friend Stu and I came to the Half Note to record Ruby with the Welsh pianist Dill Jones, bassist George Mraz (then working with Pepper in the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis ensemble, and Dottie Dodgion on drums.  About two -thirds through the evening, where the music had been very sweet, with Ruby’s characteristic leaps through the repertoire of Louis, Duke, and Billie, a tall man ascended the stand with a baritone saxophone, was greeted warmly by the players, and the quintet launched into an extended blues in Ab.  I remember Dottie Dodgion being particularly enthusiastic about the unnamed musician’s playing, who packed his horn and went off into the warm Greenwich Village night.  Who was that unmasked man?  The subject of Carner’s book, and yes, the tape exists, although not in my possession.

To learn more about Adams, JOY ROAD, and Carner, visit his Pepper Adams website and his Pepper Adams blog, THE MASTER