Saturday, April 22, 2017

Utah State Does It The Right Way

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I arrived in Logan, Utah on a Monday, just before dinner. Logan is a college town, the home of Utah State University. The drive north from Salt Lake City is picturesque, especially breathtaking on Route 89 as you drive up and over the mountain pass about twenty minutes outside of Logan.

Baritone saxophonist Jon Gudmundson ( invited me to Utah State. He runs their jazz program. The occasion of my two hour journey from Salt Lake City was to fulfill Jon’s vision of a Pepper Adams celebration at Utah State.

Several years ago in an email to me, Jon said he’d like to produce a big band concert of Pepper Adams charts to feature both his students and a guest soloist. Also, he thought I should participate in some way. Jon’s idea was an outgrowth of purchasing Tony Faulkner’s charts in 2013 as part of my Kickstarter campaign.

Fast forward to 2016. I wrote Jon to tell him that my daughter had moved to Salt Lake and I’d be in Utah at least once a year. That brought Jon’s idea for an Adams celebration back to the foreground. Moving ahead, Jon invited baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall (, ) to be the soloist with his two student big bands. And he asked me to lecture about Pepper Adams to his jazz history class and do a pre-concert interview about Adams with Utah deejay Steve Williams as a way of kicking off the show.

                    (Jon Gudmundson)

Apart from the Pepper Adams agenda, the week was made even more interesting by the presence of guitarist Peter Bernstein ( Since Bernstein was passing through on his way back to New York, he too was invited to do a clinic and perform a concert at USU’s beautiful Performance Hall. This confluence of heavyweight New York musicians way out west felt like a Smoke reunion. (Both play there on a weekly basis.)

Sitting in on Peter’s concert were Jason Marshall and guitarist Corey Christiansen ( ). The concert consisted of standards and it revealed a more introspective side of Bernstein’s artistry than I expected. His playing throughout showcased the harmonic inventiveness and technical range that has made him one of the world’s foremost guitarists.

The following morning I lectured on Pepper Adams in Jon’s class. It was comprised mostly on non-music majors. I only had 75 minutes. Much like my lecture at Brigham Young University the previous week I needed to keep my comments brief. Unlike BYU, however, I was able to read to the students part of my Prologue to my forthcoming Adams biography and interlace two YouTube videos for context: ( and

During my lecture, Jon Gudmundson said that he and Jason Marshall were talking about Pepper. Marshall questioned whether Adams on ballad performances ever stayed in a tender mood for an entire tune without double-timing. Partly on Marshall's behalf, Gudmundson asked me, “Does Pepper always scramble eggs?” “Yes,” I nodded. I mentioned that Adams in some ways was a frustrated soloist, spending too much time with big bands and not nearly enough recording or playing on his own with small groups. Jon, understanding my reply, said in summation, “He had a lot of notes inside that needed to come out.”

In addressing Jon and Jason’s question further, I then played for the class “Star-Crossed Lovers” from Adams’ great recording Encounter ( to show Adams’ interest in a more sublime, lyrical aesthetic. On that, unfortunately, Pepper only embellishes the melody. Much like Coltrane’s “Naima,” Pepper doesn’t take a solo, instead giving it to Tommy Flanagan as Trane did with McCoy Tyner. I thought to next play Pepper’s solo on “East of the Sun” with Toots Thielemans from Man Bites Harmonica but the class was coming to a close.

After the talk I thought more about the issue of Adams as an “extreme player.” Does that detract from what he does? Some musicians, such as bassist Major Holley, would ask him why he plays so many notes. Did they ask Art Tatum the same thing? Does that suggest a double standard? Is there a different aesthetic expected of piano soloists than saxophonists or low-pitched instrumentalists?

I remembered something Gary Smulyan once said to me about the audience perception of baritone playing, something he’s been trying to get away from as his career continues to evolve. He told me it’s always expected that he play aggressively. If he doesn’t, his fans are let down. Perhaps Pepper Adams felt the same pressure?

Basically, it seems to me that Pepper’s playing is characterized one way based on the bulk of his commercial recordings. Yet some of his little known audience tapes show an entirely different side to his playing. If Pepper, on commercial recordings, preferred a bravura, virtuosic style of playing, is that necessarily a bad thing?

I thought first about medium tempo Pepper solos, such as the audience recording Bye, Bye Blackbird ( ) where Adams strikes a perfect balance between behind-the-beat, swinging eighth-note choruses and double-timing. But then I remembered some commercial recordings. There’s this early Pepper solo on “A Winter’s Tale”:
Pepper plays very lyrically until he doubles up at the end as a climactic denouement. How about his great solo on Excerent?: Do you have any lyrical Pepper solos you can recommend?

Back to Marshall and Gudmundson's point, how about Adams’ ballad playing in particular? Did Pepper ever hold back and not double-time? This ties into a criticism that Lewis Porter once articulated to me about Adams. He said, after listening to a Pepper solo at my house in the mid 1980s, that Adams is “an anxious player.” Do you in any way agree? Is he too quick to double up, too eager (= anxious) to slowly build up a solo? Do some of his lines, or his rhythmic patterns, add an anxious sensibility, especially when they’re staccato? Does Martin Williams’ comment to me many years ago about Pepper--“He’s playing Coleman Hawkins paradiddles”-- have any merit?

Lip scoops. Remember Brian Williams’ comment a year or so ago about Pepper’s overuse of them? Is this unique to Pepper? Is it part of his articulational concept?

Apart from all the time I spent thinking about the implications of Jon and Jason's observation, one of the highlights of my Logan experience was a jam session held at Jack’s Wood Fired Oven. Mostly an enthusiastic Tuesday night hang for Utah State music students and their retinue, the night was made particularly exciting thanks to the added presence of Jason Marshall, Peter Bernstein, various Utah State faculty, and especially Detroit trumpeter Kris Johnson (, who drove up from Salt Lake with one of his bari students to see Marshall (his old Count Basie Band buddy). All took turns sitting in and Johnson was dazzling!

Equally enjoyable was my opportunity to speak to the large pre-concert audience on my final night in Logan. For thirty minutes I was asked a handful of questions by Steve Williams before an appreciative house prior to USU’s “Tribute to Pepper Adams.” At the Tribute (see program), Greg Wheeler conducted two Tony Faulkner charts: “Mary’s Blues” and “Trentino.” Later, Jon Gudmundson conducted three others: 
Bossallegro,” “Doctor Deep” and “Etude Diabolique.” 

Featured soloist Jason Marshall played beautifully throughout the night. He had a chance to work with the USU faculty small group (Aggie Music Project) on two tunes between the big band sets, and added an absolutely exquisite surprise ballad duet, backed by piano. He prefaced it by saying (and I paraphrase), “I want to play something pretty. We need more pretty in our lives. It delays the oxidative process.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Pepper Adams Film

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I had a wonderful trip to Utah in late March, early April. It gave me another chance to spread the word about Pepper Adams. On my flight out, my wife and I had the fortunate experience of being able to switch our seats to an exit row and grab some extra legroom. Sitting next to us was Josh Cross, a documentary filmmaker and MIT trained engineer.  (See and His passion as a filmaker is exposing injustice, especially in U.S. public schools.

I can’t recall a faster four-hour flight. We chatted the entire time. By the time we landed in Salt Lake City, Josh was really intrigued about Pepper Adams. A few days later, after checking out, he admitted to being a confirmed Adams fan. Now we’re discussing the possibility of doing a documentary film on Pepper Adams. How about that for serendipity?

Josh asked me about my vision for such a film. I’m curious what you suggest? What themes should an Adams documentary tackle? What’s the argument? What kind of obstacles should be added to the narrative to give it drama? Should it be a triumph? A tragedy? Perhaps both?

Surely, the vibrant Detroit scene of the early 1950s should be covered, just as surely as how Pepper and his gifted Detroit colleagues descended on New York City in the mid-1950s (“The Detroit Invasion”) and affected jazz history. (Dan Morgenstern would be the perfect person to comment on that!) How about Pepper’s time in the Army, on base with Tommy Flanagan and Bill Evans; his ill-fated gig with Charlie Parker; or touring the front lines in Korea with the Special Services Company? How about his place in the New York City loft scene and how it intersected with the Abstract Expressionist Movement? How about his contribution to the baritone classical literature (via David Amram), racial issues in general, his place specifically as the only white musician in Blue Note’s stable from 1957 until its dissolution, or his role in important bands led by Mingus, Thad Jones and others? How about Pepper’s early role in jazz education (at the Eastman School of Music, various band camps or Making Music Together (the forerunner of Jazzmobile)? Who should narrate, if anyone? Morgan Freeman, perhaps? Someone told me he’s a Pepper Adams fan. Wouldn’t that be something?

Maybe we should highlight bands that Adams was a part of that died prematurely?-- the Thad Jones/Pepper Adams Quintet; the Thelonious Monk Big Band; and, yes, even the Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Quintet--then move to the triumph of his glorious six years (1977-1983) as an international soloist? Should some of the themes from earlier posts be explored?: His unglamorous appearance? The fact that he played a low-pitched instrument? The complexity of his playing style and compositions? Perhaps this is an opportunity to finally include those I haven’t had the chance to interview, such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett and others? Who else should be interviewed? Readers, I need your input here. All ideas, outlines, etc will be shared in a future post.
                                             (Josh Cross)

Once on the ground, my first few days in Salt Lake City were spent visiting with family, doing some sightseeing, and acclimating to the high altitude, new time zone, and cold and rainy weather. I enjoyed visiting the Tracy Aviary and the Natural History Museum. Both really aren’t my thing, I thought, yet how often do you get stared at by owls and witness peacocks strutting around unfettered or with their plume fully extended? At the architecturally dazzling Natural History Museum we saw a rather creepy show on the history of poison, then toured other exhibits. They had a great section devoted to local Native American tribes, including some moving short films with interview material.

Outside, on a back terrace, and also by one of the front entrances, were warning signs about rattlesnakes. The museum is situated right up against the base of one of the mountain ranges surrounding the city. Some folks at the gift shop told me they’ve seen scorpions--or was it tarantulas?
--in the museum, and once a rattlesnake was spotted slithering around under one of the rattlesnake warning signs.

On my fourth day in Salt Lake, I began the first of a handful of scheduled Pepper Adams events. At Westminster College I spent two hours with saxophonist David Halliday’s Jazz Ensemble class. It gave me a chance to test some new ideas. David was a wonderful host and his class enjoyed the videos available at Similar to my experience lecturing at saxophonist Kirk MacDonald’s class at Humber College in Toronto and at trumpeter John D’Earth’s class at the University of Virginia, Halliday participated with me in the lecture, highlighting points I made to the students. In that way, the class became more didactic. In Halliday’s case, many of his students hadn’t taken a jazz survey, thus weren’t knowledgeable of many of the musicians I referenced.

Halliday really appreciated many of the musical points I made and didn’t hesitate to politely challenge something that he felt was off-base. About one point I made--regarding Adams’ sound and style being instantly recognizable, and an aesthetic that was once far more important in jazz--he felt my second point was incorrect. He said if you listen to Robert Glasper or Kurt Rosenwinkel, for example, they too have their own thing going, and that jazz musicians still strive to establish their own unique voice. Although my comment may have been heavy-handed, is there today, or in the last thirty years or so, less individuality among players, perhaps due to the legions of college jazz graduates from the ever expanding North American jazz history programs or due to other factors?

Halliday also found it interesting that in my discussion of bandleaders versus sidemen, I included touring as a “single” as one aspect of being a sideman. In thinking more about it, I’ve realized that traveling as a “single” is a kind of middle ground between the two camps. Although a touring soloist doesn't travel with his own group, nor as the leader of a band have the responsibility of running that kind of business, he is still nonetheless the leader of whatever rhythm section they join.

One Westminster student heard back-phrasing in Adams’ playing. When Halliday asked her to explain, she said it’s a common trait in singers, where they pull back the time, then catch up. I first heard the expression used about Pepper’s playing style by trumpeter/bandleader Denny Christianson. I thought he meant only playing behind the beat. What’s your sense of the term and how the practice is used by Pepper and among jazz players?

The following day I taped a 2.5 hour radio program with Steve Williams at KCPW. Williams is the voice of jazz in Utah. Until a few years ago, he was on the air five nights a week. Sometime after his show was cancelled by KUER (NPR Utah), it was scooped up by KCPW, who in turn licensed it back to NPR. Williams’ show first began in June, 1984, the same month I met Pepper Adams. Steve’s father, Murray Williams, was a lead alto saxophonist who, apart from playing with many bands in the 1930s and 40s, recorded with Charlie Parker at Carnegie Hall (opposite Mitch Miller with Strings).

Steve is an incredibly warm and gracious host. I can’t recall feeling more comfortable in a similar setting. He played a lot of early Pepper Adams, such as things with Chet Baker, Gene Ammons and Howard McGhee. I was struck by how great Pepper sounded, as if I was hearing them anew. In some ways I was, because I hadn’t heard them in many years. There’s just so much Pepper material! I’m reminded how I need to go back and hear many of these dates again. Williams also played a few things from Pepper’s great date, Encounter

The next day I was a guest of trumpeter Craig Ferrin at one of the campuses of Salt Lake Community College. SLCC has 60,000 students spread throughout the region. Ferrin assembled a spirited group that really enjoyed Adams’ playing. As with Westminster, I had almost two hours to take my time and present many ideas I’m working on related to Adams' biography. Ferrin was a very warm host, just like Halliday and Williams.

We were assisted by percussionist Lynn Brown, also a professor there, who lent his laptop and assisted me throughout the lecture. At one point, after hearing Pepper’s extraordinary solo on “Straight, No Chaser” from a CBC broadcast from Expo ‘67 (at the 6:40 mark:, Brown asked if there was a transcription of that! He was acknowledging its complexity and just how difficult it would be to transcribe the solo. Taking Brown’s cue, a day or so after the lecture I corresponded with saxophonist Adam Schroeder, whose solo transcriptions posted at have impressed students in Utah. Afterwards, I wrote Brown a thank you note:

“Thanks again for all your help navigating my website and participating in the lecture. You joked about whether there was a transcription of one of Pepper's more complicated solos. Thanks to you, that may actually come to pass. Adam Schroeder, the guy who did those transcriptions of commercially released recordings, has offered to do more.

Best wishes,
Gary Carner”

My exciting first week in Utah ended with a lecture for the amazing music students at Brigham Young University. I’ve rarely seen a more spirited group of 30-40 musicians. Saxophonist Ray Smith has a great program and he too was really moved by Pepper’s playing. I only had one hour, so had to pare down my comments to 25 minutes of prefatory remarks to contextualize why I was invited and why only 10% of the group had ever heard of Adams before the lecture was announced. That left 35 minutes for Pepper videos/audio on YouTube. I played the following:

  1. Solo excerpt from Flying Home (Lionel Hampton, 1964)
  2. In Love with Night (Montreal, 1978)
  3. My Shining Hour (Grammy Awards, 1982)
  4. Straight, No Chaser (Expo ‘67)
  5. Straight, No Chaser (Sweden, with Clark Terry)

Next week I’ll write about my residency with Jon Gudmundson at Utah State. Again, I’m very grateful to David Halliday, Steve Williams, Craig Ferrin and Ray Smith for such a memorable week in Utah!

                      (Westminster College Jazz Ensemble. Photo c. David Halliday)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reader Responses

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I want to thank Jon Wheatley and Kevin Goss for their perceptive Facebook replies last week. I hope others feel free to reply to future posts, if only on Facebook. I'm happy to cut and paste, understanding it's often easier for folks to respond on Facebook while they're there. Can someone please tell me if it's hard to post replies directly on Blogspot? Thanks again to the intrepid Peter Landsdowne for doing so.

So often I think of Adams as a complex soloist and forget how difficult his tunes are to play. Other than playing a few of his lead sheets on piano, the only Pepper tune I've ever played on my instrument is "Rue Serpente." I did that in the mid-1980s, while working on my Pepper Adams thesis at Tufts. I put together my own arrangement for solo guitar. It sure took me a long time to work it out.

During that time, I studied briefly with guitarist Jon Wheatley. His perception of Pepper's original tunes having melodies that are not easily singable is interesting and certainly deserves more scrutiny. Is that unusual in the jazz canon? Is that a reason to exclude his (or anyone's) tunes from the standard repertoire? It seems that "Muezzin'" and "Freddie Froo" are the only Adams compositions to ever make it into a fakebook. Please let me know what you think about this.

As for Wheatley's claim that Pepper played his own, difficult material, yes, that's true chiefly once he went out as a single in 1977, after leaving Thad/Mel. As drummer Ron Marabuto told me, after Pepper made the move he focused on organizing a book he could take around with him. His wife, Claudette, said Pepper at that time spent a lot of time composing at the piano. Fortunately, Pepper's two dates for Muse (Reflectory and The Master) gave him an outlet to record some of his new tunes, as did two subsequent dates on Uptown and recordings as a sideman with Bill Perkins and Hod O'Brien.

Even though by 1977 Pepper had already written and recorded more than twenty original compositions, he didn't play many of them on his own gigs. For those, he might pull one out from time to time, answer a request, or chose a favorite Thad Jones tune. More often, though, Adams played standards. 

Adams was careful with his repertoire. Let's not forget that non-American rhythm sections really varied in terms of quality before the 1980s or '90s.  As he put it, Pepper didn't "want to show distain for the audience" and downgrade a performance by calling a tune that a rhythm section couldn't handle.

As for Pepper's tunes being difficult to play, trumpeter Red Rodney said in my interview with him that Valse Celtique was "tough" and he would have appreciated some rehearsal time with it before a Barry Harris concert, when Pepper pulled it out to play. More recently, drummer Mike Melito, between tunes at a 2015 Rochester, New York concert he led of Pepper's music, said to the Bop Shop audience, "This music is really hard." Melito's superb band of Eastman guys (including pianist Harold Danko) played the music impeccably, by the way. I wish I had a tape of it. Many years ago, bassist Rufus Reid told me that some of Pepper's tunes were "too intellectual." Did he in part mean they were tough to play?

I thought I'd shoot an email to Mike Melito and ask him to elaborate on why he feels Pepper's music is hard to play. He wrote right back with the following:

"Hey Gary:
Here are some thoughts on why I think Pepper's tunes were difficult from the drums' standpoint.
Pepper Adams' compositions were masterpieces but posed many challenges for musicians to play them. As a drummer, you need to be able to play the ensembles of tunes but not just play generic time. You need to know how to make the melodies of compositions come alive, otherwise everything will sound the same. Pepper's tunes can not be played by a chump drummer who doesn't know how to deal with the ensembles. Pepper wrote certain tunes that were hard rhythmically. You need to be able to deal with that in a musical way. For instance, you need to know how to make short sounds for short notes in the melodies. But you also have to know how to make longer notes in the melody BUT also play around the rhythms without clashing with the ensembles, and knowing when to leave space. Developing this is not an easy task! 

One of my favorite Pepper tunes is "Cindy's Tune," originally recorded on his record Encounter with Zoot Sims. First off, the melody of this tune is tricky for the horns so you can't get in the way. When you come across a composition like this, you can orchestrate it in different ways. Elvin Jones, the drummer on Encounter, brought his brillant organic thing to the melody. He played around the melody, outlining it but having such a wide beat. Being Elvin, it worked great. There is only one Elvin Jones, though, so as a drummer we have to come up with our own way of playing the difficult melodies Pepper wrote. What works for one guy may not work for another. That is one of the biggest challenges as a drummer when playing Pepper's music: knowing how to make the melodies come alive."

Great stuff from Mike Melito! Thanks so much for your insights. Aside from the various comments about Pepper's tunes being difficult, I found Kevin Goss' comments about audiences "listening with their eyes" really fascinating. For one thing, Pepper just didn't care that much about how he dressed. Some musicians, like Bobby Timmons, would get on his case in the late 1950 and 60s for his raggedy sport coat (possibly the one worn in the photo on's homepage), or how indifferent Pepper was to dressing up for a gig. Even later in life, when his wife and step-son tried to get him au courant by wearing a leather vest and dress shirt (see the cover to Live at Fat Tuesday's below), Pepper's white tee shirt always seemed to peek out of his wide-open collar. To see another one of Pepper's informal outfits, see this performance with Clark Terry in Sweden. Pepper, with his flannel shirt, almost looks like he could have just milked a cow: 

There were some notable exceptions when Pepper did show some concern for appearance on the bandstand. In 1960, Pepper came to his gig at Montreal's Little Vienna wearing a bow tie and criticized pianist Keith White for not wearing socks. The Little Vienna had a completely unpretentious coffee house like vibe that in no way approximated a white-table cloth supper club, nor was it a place where the audience would dress up. White's response to Pepper's criticism was, "This is the Little Vienna, not the Waldorf Astoria."

Regarding Pepper's looks, if you check out some of the photos of Adams as a child on my Instagram page (, you might agree with me that Pepper was quite a cute kid. Somewhere along the way, he was stigmatized about being ugly. Being branded with the nickname of "Pepper" in the Seventh Grade certainly didn't help. He said repeatedly over the years that Pepper Martin (to whom he was compared by his schoolmates, and nicknamed after) was "an ugly son-of-a-gun." 

In one interview I did, I was told that Pepper was quite sensitive about his looks. His Princeton haircut of the 1950s and 60s--close on the sides and almost a Mohawk on top--certainly made him look rather eccentric in some photographs. In 1985, during intermission at a gig in New Jersey, Pepper joked about his crooked front teeth (that he couldn't afford to fix), that were damaged by playing hockey in Rochester. About them, he said to me with a twinkle in his eye, "Do you think they grow that way?" Despite his misgivings about his looks, from what I can tell there never seemed to be any shortage of groupies and women around him. Musicians really have it made, don't they?

This past week I also heard from saxophonist/arranger Frank Griffith and saxophonist Frank Basile. Both wrote me about how much they enjoyed what Tony Inzalaco had to say a few weeks back. Tony is a really special person. Anyone in the Anaheim area should try to catch his group, hear him while he's still going strong, and get to know him.

Saxophonist Aaron Lington also emailed me about the first 50 Years at the Village Vanguard post, saying it's a great book. My review of the book's contents is still forthcoming. I want to give it the attention it deserves. Unlike many jazz picture books, there's a considerable amount of text. Lington, by the way, is in the midst of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Please help put him way over the top:

A few other things of interest took place this week. I got a wonderful email from tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts. He said he was enjoying the blog. I immediately wrote back telling him how much I appreciated he and others giving me feedback, that intermittent reinforcement from readers is so important to my psyche to keep all this Pepper work going. 

In part, too, Osian was consoling me for not getting my Detroit proposal approved for the 2017 Darmstadt conference. Looking back, I was a tad naive. I should have first asked around about what kind of language they usually look for in these proposals. I was just too excited about the prospect of traveling abroad and presenting my research on 1950s Detroit. In turns out that they give preference to those with academically germane jargon. Not being a member of "the club," I wrote it in plain English. No big deal. It helped me get some Detroit work done. But I wanted to get to Prague and hear Osian play some Pepper tunes with his small group and big band.

In Osian's email, he told me about his recent tour with Detroit pianist Kirk Lightsey. I'm hoping to interview Lightsey by Skype sometime soon. Lightsey currently lives in Paris and he knew Pepper as an elder on the scene. I'm especially interested in Kirk's remembrances of growing up in Detroit.  

Roberts wrote that Lightsey on their tour spoke of "how smartly dressed Doug Watkins was," and "the picture he painted of the music scene [in Detroit] when he was growing up and the standard of the musicians was vivid and impressive. What struck me was the fact that all the musicians he mentioned were studying classical music to a very advanced level (enthusiastically I should add!), whereas jazz was mainly learnt at friends' houses such as Barry Harris' and so forth. The fact that [Lightsey] majored on oboe (which he played in the symphony orchestra with Paul Chambers), but could play all the woodwind instruments from clarinet to bassoon, gives you an idea of how thoroughly trained and accomplished these guys were. Apparently, [Lightsey] was in an Army band with Joe Henderson on bass (and he was excellent)!"

As I'll be traveling for the next few weeks, lecturing about Pepper Adams in Utah, this post will be my last in March. The next installment will be on April 16. I hope everybody in the U.S. gets their income taxes done. 

I'm going to close with the stunning discovery that the webmaster of, Dan Olson, made just three days ago. A few months ago some of you marveled at the discovery of the triumphant and previously unseen 1982 Pepper Adams TV performance on the Grammy Awards telecast. Amazingly, Olson just found a much better YouTube version. It has better resolution, includes John Denver's introduction for context, and most importantly has a completely unsulllied version of Adams' cadenza. All known versions beforehand had a defect on Pepper's concluding "funny note." We now have a complete two-minute take of the entire thing with the rhythm section, and how it then dovetails into his two-minute version of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" with Al Jarreau. As Pepper told me, his uptempo arrangement of (appropriately enough) "My Shining Hour" allowed him to at least get a chance to improvise. Finally seeing his complete comedic routine, beginning with the "Muppets Theme" and ending with him looking into the bell of his horn, is something I've waited over thirty years to see. As Pepper told me about that experience, a limo picked him up at the airport, everything was first-class. "Two minutes in the big time," he said.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lecture Notes

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I was off for much of the week, enjoying a few rounds of golf with a good friend. Because of that, the second part of my review of 50 Years at the Village Vanguard will be delayed at least a week. Thanks for your patience.

As of yesterday, I began preparing a new Pepper Adams lecture for at least four talks I'll be giving in Utah over a two-week period starting March 27. I've been invited to Utah State University for a few days as a guest of professor Jon Gudmundson. I'll be speaking about Pepper Adams in a classroom setting on April 4, and again at a pre-concert talk on April 5. The latter will be before a concert by the Utah State Jazz Band. They're performing some of Tony Faulkner's big band charts of Pepper Adams tunes, with Jason Marshall as the featured baritone saxophone soloist. The previous week I'll be lecturing to mostly music students at Westminster College (3/28), Salt Lake Community College (3/30) and Brigham Young University (3/31).

As I always do, I try to bring something new to these lectures. Apart from choosing different videos and music examples, I've tried to further refine why Pepper Adams remains overlooked. After all, why am I standing before these people, and why have so few in attendance not heard of him? Below is part of what I'll be presenting. (For one class I'll need to truncate my talk, hence the bracketed thing about Detroit.) I'm interested in your feedback. Am I on the right track? 


Thank you, ________. It's great to be here. Today I'm going to discuss Pepper Adams' contribution to American music [ . . . and I'll touch on why his postwar Detroit generation of musicians is unique in jazz history.] 

Before I begin, do you have any burning questions for me about Pepper Adams or about my work about him? Have any of you seen, my Instagram site, or my blog?

Before my lecture here was announced, how many of you had even heard of Pepper Adams? . . . 

There's no doubt that among jazz musicians during Adams' lifetime, and for many insiders up to this day, Pepper Adams is viewed as a jazz titan, an icon. Nevertheless, he still isn't widely known as a musician of significance, as I think he should be, nor even discussed in any depth in jazz histories that really should know better. Despite the reverence he commands among musicians, Adams still lingers as somewhat of a footnote to history. That disconnect, albeit gradually improving over time, is something I've dedicated my life to changing.

I've been working on Pepper Adams for 33 years, since I met him in the summer of 1984. I knew him during the last three years of his life, two during his terminal illness. I'm continually struck by how much he's overlooked as an innovator. Part of this, I think, is due to the sheer complexity of his style. There's a lot going on, a lot to grasp, when you hear a Pepper Adams solo! 

Another reason, as I see it, is the bias in the way jazz history is told and the way it's sold. For me, they are two sides of the same phenomenon. If you look through the histories of jazz, you'll likely notice that so much of it discusses bandleaders and their recordings. Those who led jazz bands have historically made the most well-known recordings because they are the ones most promoted by record companies, PR firms, radio and TV, and other affiliated industries. Such bandleader recordings in turn have gotten the most press and continual airplay. So, around and around it goes in a circular, self-aggrandizing cycle of promotion and acclaim.

Yet, I'd like to point out that there's a lot more to the history of jazz than music made only by bandleaders. The way they've been anointed as the core history of this amazing music is myopic and unfortunate. For one thing, there's the overlooked history of music made in major cities such as Detroit. Fortunately, this kind of localized scholarship is really beginning to flower. 

Then there's the issue of sidemen. Some of the greatest jazz musicians, such as Pepper Adams or Sonny Stitt, to name just two saxophonists, preferred to tour as soloists, playing with pickup rhythm sections throughout the world. They didn't want the responsibility of leading a band and running a business. Being a sideman doesn't make them any less important as players, nor, as I've said, shouldn't marginalize them in term of their historical influence. It's simply a business decision they've made, though it certainly has its implications, doesn't it? Even Charlie Parker, by the way, though extremely well known, also spent much of his career touring this way. 

So, part of Pepper Adams' lack of recognition is due to issues related to commerce, as well as the common narrative sold by the media and told in jazz books. In addition, he played the baritone saxophone, an instrument that before him was thought to be cumbersome and unwieldy; a low-pitched instrument that early in the Twentieth Century was somewhat of a novelty instrument. One of Adams' great contributions to music is the way he brought the level of playing on the baritone saxophone up to the level of all other instruments. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

50 Years at the Vanguard, Part 1

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Fifty days is a long time to keep a jazz gig. How about fifty years? The amazing big band that performs every Monday night at the Village Vanguard has been at it for half a century. It's the longest gig in jazz history. 

It all began on February 7, 1966. That's when Thad Jones brought a group of New York musicians to the Vanguard for their first public gig. They were rehearsing his music since the previous Thanksgiving weekend. 

Monday nights at the Vanguard were dark. In fact, back then, little jazz took place in New York on Monday night. The owner of the Vanguard, Max Gordon, figured why not? The music is great, the musicians first class. Let's give it a shot and see what happens.

Word spread quickly about the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Musicians were lining up in the rain to catch it. Thad's band quickly became a sensation. His arrangements were fresh and exciting. The band was soulful and swung hard. The section playing and soloists were superb. The rhythm section unsurpassed. And Thad's conducting style? The consummate leader: Caring, passionate, egalitarian, and original. Among the musicians--on the bandstand and in the audience--there was so much admiration for Jones' music, his playing, and his incredibly high level of energy and creativity. The band was inspired by Thad's spontaneous rearranging of his charts. The audience was on the edge of their seat watching the theatrics unfold. Thad was the ultimate improviser--as a soloist, conductor and arranger. There was so much love in that room on Monday nights.

Thad's amazing legacy, and the devotion to what Thad and Mel wrought, shows no sign of ceasing. It's sustained weekly by longtime Jones/Lewis trombonist John Mosca and longtime lead alto player Dick Oatts. Considering this amazing history, and the extraordinary roster of musicians that have been part of it, is there anything more worthy to commemorate in a book? That's what Dave Lisik and Eric Allen have done with 50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

The project almost didn't happen. Unable to connect with trombonist John Mosca (after several attempts to discuss their book idea with him), the authors agreed to try him one last time while both were in New York or they would shelve the project. Mosca, a busy freelancer, was able to meet with the authors on their very last day in New York. Lisik and Allen needed Mosca's approval and participation to have access to the band's music, archives, copyrights, and the many musicians they would need to interview. Beginning with that successful meeting with Mosca, the authors embarked on an extremely busy year to organize this beautiful picture book and band history.

I first learned about the project from baritone saxophonist Frank Basile. He gave my contact info to Eric Allen because of the large amount of Pepper Adams materials I have in my Archive that he felt could enhance the book. After a few emails, Allen and I had a long phone conversation. I found him to be an exceptionally nice person, someone I'd be happy to help. Over the course of many months last year, I did whatever I could to assist the project. I bought an Epson scanner and spent time being patiently tutored by Allen on how to use it. (A great instrumental music teacher, I figured.) I went through all my Adams materials to find relevant documents, such as band itineraries and photographs. We exchanged many emails, discussing the veracity of certain photos and their origins, and many other things regarding Thad/Mel and Pepper Adams. Quite simply, the authors' labor of love was mine too. After all, Pepper Adams spent twelve years in that band, almost a third of his life as a professional musician. 

About the devotion and love that has motivated everyone involved, John Mosca and Dick Oatts summarized it in their forewords to 50 Years. "The secret is out," wrote Mosca. We're not in it for the money." "Every Monday night," wrote Oatts, "each member of the band sets aside everything else and comes to the Village Vanguard to serve the music we love and respect. In spite of the lack of financial reward and the occasional artistic disagreement, it is an unconditional love. Individual agendas are left out of the mix in order to maintain the tradition and preserve the integrity of what Thad Jones and Mel Lewis started in 1966."

In next week's post, I will review the contents of this important book.

To witness Thad Jones' original and passionate conducting style, see 

For a great piece about Thad Jones career, see 

This from Eric Allen: "Since we are self-publishing the book, would you please mention our website as the only place it can be purchased?":

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tony Inzalaco Interview

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

In the 1960s, New Jersey born and bred Tony Inzalaco was an in-demand drummer on the New York City jazz scene. In 1968, he left for Europe, where he stayed for ten years. While overseas, he played with Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Art Farmer and many other great American exiles. "It was a family over there," he told me. Later in his career, Buddy Rich chose Inzalaco to play drums in his place, when Rich decided for a time to front his band as a singer. My fascinating two-hour conversation with Tony Inzalaco last week covered a lot of ground, though the core focus was about Pepper Adams. What follows are some of Tony's profound observations about Pepper and the music scene. For those who want to know more about Inzalaco, see and

Pepper Adams:
"A lot of people don't know a lot of the really great musicians because they were not band leaders. They were always sidemen. Pepper was one of those people; a master musician, with a history of recording with so many different people and being able to make music at a very high level throughout his career."

"Pepper was a gentleman, and he was very intelligent. He had a lot of integrity. If you or anyone tried to push him past a certain point, he was also internally very strong, He didn't take anything from anybody. If somebody tried to push him off his thought or whatever, he would stop them and straighten them out immediately. I was present in one of those situations but I don't recall who the person was. My recollection was that he was a jerk, and was way over the line with whatever comments he was making, and Pepper straightened him out right away. And that was the first time I had seen that part of his personality."

"I think if he played a different instrument, people would have had a better understanding of him. It just seems like the baritone does not excite people. I don't know why. But if you know anything about music, and you understand what Pepper plays and how he plays it, it's brilliant! It doesn't matter what instrument he's playing. It's the content of the creation that's important. . . When you look at the other baritone players, like Harry Carney--who was a great baritone player but his thing was mostly sound and knowing how to make Duke's music live. Pepper is a bebop guy. Rhythmically, he's a bebop guy. For me, that music is in a different strata."

About Pepper not getting his due: 
"He always seemed to be above that. I never sensed that he was bitter in any way. I always found him to be a quality human being, dealing with whatever came his way without classifying himself as a victim. There's so many people that make excuses for things that you can't control. . . It just struck me that a man of his enormous talent never seemed to be negative, how everything came to him and how real fame seemed to elude him. There's other instances on other instruments where guys were really great and were just in the wrong period of time because of scenes--got lost in the shuffle. [Pepper] didn't get lost. Again, he was the bebop representative. . . That's part of the sadness about this because a lot of the people that are very famous are questionable in terms of their spirit. In other words, if you were going to have a party, you probably wouldn't invite them."

Duke Pearson:
"Duke and Donald Byrd had a big band that was working at the Half Note on Monday nights. They were the counter band to Thad and Mel. Bobby Cranshaw, for whatever reason, took a liking to me. We played together on certain things. We hit it off well. At the time, he was working with Ella, along with Mickey Roker, and so when they went out of town, they would have to get subs. Cranshaw recommended me. That's how I got to do some of those Monday nights with that band. I don't know if it was [conceived by] one of the [Cantarino] brothers at the club there, to give the other club some competition. They didn't have as many seats. I think it was a good idea, just to have another big band with a different kind of approach. Duke Pearson was one of my favorite people. He was a romantic composer. He was like Puccini to me. The 'Jazz Puccini.' He was a joyful human being. He's another one of the gems that people never really got to know that well because he was behind the scenes a lot as an A&R man. The first time I played with them, there were two great tenor players. I don't know if it was Joe Henderson but it was definitely George Coleman."

Joe Henderson and Chuck Israels rehearsal bands in the 1960s:
"Joe Henderson had a band that used to rehearse. Also, the bass player, Chuck Israels, had a rehearsal band, and I did both of those. It was open to people who were in the inner circle. Whoever was available they would call, and if they couldn't do it, call the next guy. It is a rehearsal band and there's no money involved. With Joe's band, there was a guy by the name of Tom, an Italian guy. He had a studio in the Village. That was one of the places I remember Joe's band rehearsing. I think he gave guys a really good price to use the studio."

New York in the 1960s:
"In those years, if you were on the scene, you were allowed to go to the clubs free of charge. Those who played the clubs had free access to those playing the other clubs. It was a family."

Regarding the lack of musicians hanging out in New York the 1980s and beyond
"A lot of that has to do with changing of laws. We used to work from 10 o'clock until 4 o'clock. All the clubs were that way, and then, when they started to change the liquor laws . . . I remember one time I ran into Freddie Hubbard. He said, 'You know, it's all different now. We do two shows. That's it. If the people want to stay for the second show, they gotta pay again.' In Birdland, you could go and stay all night, if you wanted. Nobody harassed you in the gallery. The whole atmosphere changed, and all of sudden a lot of people were playing festivals, these big venues, where they could draw huge crowds and get a lot of money. The whole system of finance completely changed. When I say the law changed, before, people would be drunk, disorderly, and they would go on their way. But, when they started to prosecute bartenders if they kept serving people that were inebriated, that's what I mean. You didn't get the hanger-on people. The last set at Birdland, there was still a lot of people. Not the people with the furs and all of that crap, who would come in early and sit at the tables and get some food and stuff. It's a different kind of people, a different kind of atmosphere. . . A lot of the clubs, because of different behaviors that were criminal--people getting shot, people getting stabbed--it didn't help. Even Oscar Goodstein at Birdland. Somebody stabbed him. Just bad stuff! . . . Then the English people came over here with that other garbage. The rock 'n roll business took over. . . You gotta understand: Pepper was a bebop guy. . . It's probably the most intelligent form of music that was ever available, so it put a lot of people off. In the meantime, the English people came over and started [imitating] the rhythm and blues people."

Elvin Jones and Mel Lewis:
"These are two different dynamics. Elvin is really one of the great, great drummers. He is not just a great drummer but he was an innovator. He was like what Kenny Clarke was before--and this line of drummers that produced the bebop thing. Elvin could do that, but he synthesized all of that stuff and also got to this other plateau of what he does, which involved a lot of triplets and over-the-bar kind of long phrases. Mel is more of a predictable kind of player. A lot of people like his time feel. Somehow, he simplifies what he does. But in terms of playing the instrument, Elvin is a drummer. Mel plays the drums and is a good musician. There is a difference between a guy who's a great drummer and a great musician. Elvin has great intuition. I think that's what sets him apart."

Jazz in exile due to the black backlash:
"We were like a family over there. Just a lot of Americans that saw what was happening in the States and were very lucky that things opened up for them in Europe. That's why I left. Some time in 67, there was some kind of a revolution in terms of black people, black musicians. I was one of the people that worked with Billy Taylor. I guess every drummer in New York worked with Billy Taylor at a certain point in time. When I was with him, Henry Grimes was the bass player, who was magnificent! One day, Billy called me and said, 'Tony, don't be offended but I was instructed that I can't hire any white people any longer, and so I just want you to know that this is not my thing but it's a movement.' The only guy who didn't adhere to the movement in any way, shape or form was Bob Cranshaw, because he could do anything, he was totally non-prejudiced, just a great spirit."

"Anybody who really loved this art has to have known the history of the art. And so, you study everyone that preceded your arrival. If you want to become something, you have to understand the styles--the sound that they got, how they did what they did. And, of course, whatever in their playing is attractive to you, you assimilate that and use it with your own viewpoint. That's the only way that people can be part of the history. Nobody comes along and plays anything that's really new. It's a synthesis of all the [players] before . . . and what [you've] come to because of that. So I think that's part of the challenge of this art: to come up with what history has provided for you and come out of that with your own voice. It takes time, and it takes a lot of love, and it takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of hard work."

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Happened to The Big Band and Tentet CDs?

After last week's stimulating experience interviewing Detroit pianist Charles Boles, this week was pretty sleepy by comparison. I did exchange emails with Chip McNeill at the University of Illinois regarding the long awaited CD of big band performances of Pepper Adams tunes. Unfortunately, the Illinois state budget is still on shaky ground and McNeil's esteemed jazz program has suffered because of it. For the past few years, Illinois has slashed public college educational spending. Limited resources has kept McNeill from having the revenue to, among other things, release the date on Armored Records. He told me that if he has any money left over at the end of this semester, he'll finally be able to release the CD.

This is the recording that features arrangements by the superb British drummer and arranger Tony Faulkner. In order for Faulkner to get paid, travel from England to North America for a month tour of concerts and lectures with me, and pay for the mastering of the original concert done at the University of Illinois, Tony and I oversaw a stressful but ultimately successful 30-day Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2013. Somehow we exceeded our goal of $7000.  On behalf of Tony Faulkner, I want to thank all of you for your funding of the project. We remain eternally grateful.

One large contributor was baritone saxophonist Jon Gudmundson, who leads the jazz program at Utah State University. It was Jon's three-part goal to perform some of these charts, feature a guest soloist at the concert, and invite me to speak about Pepper. That dream is finally coming to fruition in a few weeks. His big band is performing these tough Faulkner charts on Wednesday night, April 5, in Logan, Utah, with baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall as soloist. I'll be doing some kind of pre-concert talk, plus lecturing at a jazz class the day before. While in Utah, I'm also doing lectures at Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, and possibly a few other schools.

The big band recording that Tony and I worked on was to be Volume 6 of my multi-volume CD series of Pepper's music. My record label, Motema, cut me loose after Volume 5 due to lackluster sales. At that point, not having a label, Chip and Glenn Wilson took back the project, deciding to search for a label or self-produce it through the university. After announcing its release on Armored, I thought the issue was concluded. Two winters ago the date was scheduled for release. Then I heard something about the owner's wife having a baby. Now it's Illinois' budget problem. We're nearly four years after the date has been recorded. Because of it being in limbo for far longer than any of us thought possible, the patience of some of my donors has no doubt been tried. Chip McNeill does not want me to release an edited version on CD Baby that we produced for Motema. In respect to his wishes, I continue to wait. Almost all of the donors will be receiving a surprise CD in the mail. I wish I knew when!

In the mail this week arrived a sampler CD, All Blues, from Denny Christianson, director of Humber College's great jazz program: Sometime after Tony Faulkner and I lectured at Humber in Toronto in the Fall of 2013, Christianson directed his Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble to record a collection of tunes, one of which was Pepper Adams' composition Doctor Deep. Finally, there's a well-produced studio version of one of Tony charts! Despite so many great concerts of his Adams charts done in 2012 and 2013, and even with the prospect of doing two recordings of Faulkner's arrangements, this Humber recording is the first and only commercial release of anything he wrote. The main reason why Tony worked so hard was to create a book of material that could be performed by big band and tentet, some of which would be recorded. The Illinois date has languished, obviously, and a live tentet recording led by drummer Tim Horner didn't turn out as expected and won't be released.

Speaking of drummers, I just received this email out of the blue from drummer Tony Inzalaco. It was a response to an email I sent to him last November:

Hi Gary;  I am replying to your email concerning working with Pepper Adams, etc. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond but I rarely check the email that you contacted me on. I would be happy to speak with you about Pepper but not by email. So if you are interested I would prefer speaking via telephone. You can either send me your number or request my number. Park was one of the great gentlemen of Jazz and his body of work is a testament of his artistic level of excellence.   

Tony Inzalaco

Here's my original email:

Hi Tony: In my interview with Pepper Adams, he mentioned playing with you in Atlantic City. He said it was a sextet led by Maynard Ferguson. I've been able to approximate the dates as cApr 20-24, 1965 and cApr 27-May 2, 1965. Might you remember who else was in that band, the venue, or anything else about it? Did you work with Pepper on any other occasions?

I'm scheduled to interview Tony this afternoon

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

In a few weeks,'s webmaster, Dan Olson, and I will be adding audio content of some of these big band performances of Faulkner's charts from 2013, including some great things on YouTube that haven't been seen because they're not properly indexed. By then, I should know if I'm going abroad in late September to give a presentation about Pepper Adams and Detroit in Darmstadt, Germany. My research over the last few months has been working toward having something of substance to present in Germany. If it comes to pass, I've been invited to Prague to stay with tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts. He'll no doubt do a gig of Pepper tunes when I'm there, hopefully with a big band, since he too arranged a few big band charts of Pepper's music. I'm hoping to lecture about Pepper at a few schools, including possibly the Prague Conservatory, if all works out.              
                            (Tony Faulkner)