© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.
We made it to August. How about that? Predictably, the weather in the Southeast has been hot and humid, and COVID is still with us. The recent spike in reported cases has kept me away from the city. In fact, I haven’t heard a live jazz band in at least a year. That’s not a good thing at all.
My July was mostly consumed by getting ready to move west from Georgia to Utah. Packing, donating, discarding, repairing, throwing stuff away, letting go of formerly cherished things: that’s been my gig. Packing has given me a much needed break from the Pepper Adams book project. And distance is a really good thing. Whenever I get back to it after a layoff, I find small details that I didn’t see before; things that need tweaking, areas that need upgraded transitions, or sometimes even sections that need to be moved around.
Just yesterday I heard from Walt Szymanski, the Detroit trumpeter who now lives in Ecuador. He read the first four chapters of the Adams biography, and is planning to review the entire book in Spanish. He told me how he “devoured” the first half in two days, eagerly reading about many of the musicians who he worked with while living in Detroit, such as Charles Boles, J.C. Heard, Sam Sanders, Johnny Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Johnny Allen, Harold McKinney, and Ali Muhammad Jackson.
Getting his email prompted me to return to Chapter 1. A few weeks ago, I had moved some sections around, thanks to the suggestions of Bob Blumenthal. Sure enough, besides making a few very minor improvements, I’m now also considering upgrading one transition to an entire section I moved from Ch. 4.
As for Chapters 5-11 that comprise the second half of the book, I’m awaiting feedback regarding Chapter 10 from one reader, then it goes out to another. My longest chapter, 10 covers the rich period 1955–1963. It basically functions as the ending of the biography per se, and it includes my discussion of some of Pepper’s key recordings from that time period, all the way back to his arrival in New York City.
Designing a narrative structure in reverse chronological order for the second half, beginning with his final illness, was challenging because, unlike the first part, I had to interlace so much information about Adams’s recordings and keep everything flowing. The approach I came up with was a kind of terracing, with Ch. 6 fitting in with the overall time frame of 5, and 8 doing the same with 7. Ch. 9, about Pepper's various women, deserved its own chapter.
Taking the book back to 1956 and his arrival in New York was my way of linking Ch. 5–10 to the opening of my conclusion in Ch. 11: "What became of the teenager who was so bedazzled by Charlie Parker? Did he accomplish what he set out to do in 1949?" I wrote my summation many months ago, so I'd know my ultimate destination.
Here’s how the second half of the biography, subtitled “Dominion,” now lays out:
PART ONE: The Life of Pepper Adams
Chapter 5: I Carry Your Heart
Chapter 6: Joy Road
Chapter 7: Conjuration
Chapter 8: Civilization and Its Discontents
Interlude: The Late 1960’s New York Jazz Scene
Civilization and Its Discontents (Part II)
Chapter 9: Lovers of Their Time Chapter 10: Urban Dreams Interlude: Bohemian New York in the
Urban Dreams (Part II) Chapter 11: Ad Astra
I’ll include a finding guide to Dominion’s contents next month. As for the publication of “Ascent,” my title for Chapters 1-4, I’m only awaiting Joshua Breakstone’s comments on Chapters 3 and 4. I’ll make the changes, reread the entire thing, and send it off to Barry Wallenstein for his final reading. After that, I’ll be ready to format it for publication. Be well everybody. I’ll catch up with you in September. Hopefully, my house will be sold by then.