© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.
A week ago I had the good fortune to lecture about Pepper Adams while on vacation. I was invited to the University of Nevada/ Las Vegas by pianist Dave Loeb, who worked with Pepper in 1977 and got to know him at that time. Although Dave was out of town for my lecture, he asked me to speak to one of his jazz classes in his absence. I only had an hour, so I spoke about Pepper's place in jazz history, read a favorite Hank Jones excerpt from my book about Pepper's genius, but mostly let Pepper's playing speak for itself.
This June will mark the 30th anniversary of my first meeting with Pepper at his home in Brooklyn. Sometimes you just don't know where life will take you. I certainly never thought I'd be working on Pepper's life and work this long. What a wonderful journey it's been!
It occurred to me again after I gave the lecture just how lucky I am to have been given this extraordinary gift. As I've told interviewers, at the time I met Pepper in 1984 I sensed that he was a fine player but really had no idea of his place in the pantheon. I hadn't begun any discographical research on his career and I approached the project as an oral historian.
Listening again with the UNLV students to three favorite solos--Have You Met Miss Jones (Eddie Condon's, New York, 1983), Three and One (La Voute, Montreal, 1982), and Day Dream (Warwick studio date, New York, 1961)--I was reminded vividly of how spectacular and original a player he was and how enduring his music continues to be for me. The students dug it too. One bought my book and another came up to me, thanked me for lecturing, and said about Pepper, "I had no idea he was that great."