Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ray Charles?

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

For many years I've been wondering if Pepper Adams appeared on a Ray Charles date. When I interviewed tenor saxophonist Billy Mitchell some 25 years ago he suggested as much but wasn't sure what the date was called and couldn't remember any specifics. I recently came across Jazz Number II, a Ray Charles date released in January 1973 on the Canadian label Tangerine (TRCS-1516). It's a big band date with arrangements by Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath, Alf Claussen, Roger Neumann and Thad Jones. Jazz Number II is part of a trilogy of jazz big band dates done by Charles in the 1970s that include My Kind of Jazz and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. 

Other than Art Blakey, the only personnel I've seen anywhere for Jazz Number II is non-listings for an "uncredited anonymous band" or "additional musicians." Interestingly, one of the charts on the date is Kids Are Pretty People, a tune Thad Jones and Mitchell recorded on a small group date in 1963 and a tune Pepper performed in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. 

Jazz Number II was recorded at Charles' Tangerine/RPM Studios in Los Angeles in 1971-1972. According to the chronology at, Pepper was not in LA either year but there are noticable gaps, especially in 1971. Jazz Number II was reissued by Concord in 2010 as Genius + Soul = Jazz. Will Friedwald wrote the liner notes and I've written to him for clarification. (He's currently looking for his files to see if there's any personnel info.) Does anyone have a copy of this and can they listen for a non-Low A bari part to see if Pepper might be on the date?

If Pepper is on any of the three Ray Charles big band dates that make up the trilogy, it's possible that Pepper did it as overdubs. That was the era for it, of course, and Pepper did a lot of overdubs in New York for CTI, Atlantic, et al. from 1968-1975 or so. The link here is Billy Mitchell, who I believe was Charles' contractor at the time. Mitchell was very close with both Thad and Pepper. All three go back to their days in Detroit in the late 1940s. If Mitchell needed a bari player on a big band jazz date, Pepper would surely be thought of as an option.