Saturday, February 8, 2014

More Pepper with Bevan Manson

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.



Some of you are familiar with Bevan Manson, the superb pianist, composer and arranger. Bevan did the octet charts for me, featuring Gary Smulyan, for the final concert of Pepper Adams Week in New York City (2012). Having Bevan sculpt charts for sax, rhythm section, and string quartet was an exciting way of moving Pepper's music into an entirely new realm. The second set of that great night at Birdland can be heard at pepperadams.com. Click "Audio for the 2012 Tour." With George Mraz and Kenny Washington can you get a much better rhythm section? Thanks again to Motema Music and Mary Ann Topper for producing this very special week.

My work with Bevan is now taking a new direction, though some of it has been a few years in the making. Bevan is soon applying for a composers grant to write a piece for flutist Lew Tabackin and chamber orchestra based on Pepper's themes. Bevan and I first discussed an orchestral piece in 2012. Our plan is to schedule several concerts way in advance to get the music performed and rehearsed, then record it for a Bevan Manson compilation CD not likely dedicated exclusively to Pepper's music.

Three other Bevan Manson projects are moving ahead too. One is a collaboration between Bevan and arranger/composer Tony Faulkner for a second flute feature for Lew Tabackin. This one is an orchestral medley of Pepper's seven ballads. Tony suggested the idea when we were traveling together last year on our Pepper Adams tour. 

You might not know it but the Metropole Orchestra, featuring Pepper Adams, recorded for NOS Radio in 1982. None of the material has been released and I'm not sure what's happened to the charts. At that December gig in Hilversum Pepper and the orchestra recorded a beautiful version of Pepper's ballad Urban Dreams along with Witchcraft, Linger Awhile, Gone with the Wind, and I'm All Smiles. Pepper gave me a copy of the date as a gift and was quite proud of it.

Besides the two orchestral works for Lew Tabackin, I've also suggested that Bevan score for orchestra and flute Lew Tabackin's exquisite arrangement of Pepper's samba Bossa Nouveau. You can hear Lew's brilliant performance at pepperadams.com. It was part of the second half of a double bill at Birdland, opposite Manson and the octet.

One last project that has begun is a classical guitar arrangement of Ephemera, Pepper's personal favorite composition. I studied guitar and Renaissance lute privately with John Varner for seven years in New Jersey and I'm very fond of the idiom. Since the 1980s when I last studied the instruments, the amount of classical guitarists all over the world has exploded, possibly in part due to the Suzuki Method adopting the instrument as part of their curriculum. 

With the huge number of players in mind, my plan is to do a CD's worth of arrangements of a wide variety of Pepper tunes. Young guitarist Henry Johnson, the son Minneapolis guitar pedagogue Alan Johnson, is trying his hand (pardon the pun) this summer at arranging the original version of Ephemera from Pepper's 1973 recording of the same name. Ultimately, Bevan Manson, who has already composed works for guitar, can assist in the project as needed.

Besides being a very gifted guitarist, Henry is also a tenor saxophonist and Pepper Adams fan. To my ears, the head of Ephemera could be beautifully arranged incorporating George Mraz's bounce time bass line underneath the melody, and by using Roland Hanna's incredible comping as fills and counterpoint. Pepper's opening cadenza could make for a spectacular guitar fanfare, don't you think? What's done in the middle section, though, is beyond me! I'm eager to hear what Henry devises.

Obviously, Bevan's octet charts for Gary Smulyan have been laying fallow for two years and need to be recorded. I've decided to delay until October my crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,500 for another four Manson charts to have enough material for yet another CD. These new charts are being written to feature Pat LaBarbera on both tenor and soprano sax. Any thoughts on what tunes Bevan should do? So far we have these for Smulyan: Jirge (as a rhumba), Julian (as a ballad), In Love with Night (as a ballad) and Lovers of Their Time (Latin). The plan is to record the four new charts in Toronto with a mostly Toronto based band including Andrew Homzy's two daughters on violin and hopefully Dave Brubeck's son Matt on cello.