Saturday, April 18, 2015

Walkin' About: Strolling Through Pepper's Chronology

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.


I hope you enjoyed reading the Prologue to my forthcoming Pepper Adams biography that I posted last week. I've re-read it a few times since then and I'm pleased with it. It took me several months and numerous revisions to get it to this point, and this after first writing an entirely different draft more than a year ago. Two of my distinguished readers, John Gennari and Ron Ley, have given me the "thumbs up" on the new version. That gives me the assurance that I can finally move on to Chapter 1. To that end I've been pulling together my notes about Rex Stewart and listening again and again to Pepper's 8-track material featuring Rex with the Ellington band.

How many of you have listened to Rex Stewart? I'm quite familiar with contemporaneous Ellington trumpeter and growl master Cootie Williams. Somehow I never really knew much about Stewart until now. Rex is terrific! He had an impressive plasticity with his time and could play with tremendous drama, power and technique. But mostly it's the playfulness and joyousness and incredible creativity that makes him so compelling. Like Cootie, Rex's half-valve inflexions and smears add a "badness" and soulfulness to his solos. They serve as such a beautiful counterpoint to his exuberance and sometimes wild sense of humor. I'm starting to understand why Pepper loved his playing. Rex, above all else, was a stylist.

I'm also reminded of what Kenny Berger wrote in this blog a few months ago about Rex's influence on Thad Jones. Pepper, for his part, was a huge Rex Stewart fan for at least ten years before he met Thad in the early '50s. One can only imagine how their mutual affection for Rex Stewart, among other things (such as Pepper's close friendship with Elvin, Thad's younger brother), must have brought them quickly together as soulmates. Pepper and Thad's relationship was complicated. It will be explored in the biography.

Besides signing off on the Prologue and getting deeper into Rex Stewart, I've also been updating "Thaddeus." That's the part of Pepper's chronology that begins with the early 1965 formation of the Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet and ends with Adams leaving Thad/Mel in late August, 1977. The new version has been posted. Please check it out: http://www.pepperadams.com/Chronology/Thaddeus.pdf

Although the Chronology can be easily overlooked as a less sexy part of pepperadams.com, it's really the bedrock of the site and of all my research. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've consulted the Chronology when I'm assessing aspects of Pepper's life. Because new data is always being discovered--ads for gigs, broadcasts, audience tapes, memorabilia--you can expect that I'll be continually updating it over time. The new version of "Thaddeus" has been enlarged about 10% with new discoveries and deletions. At around 50 pages, it accounts for at least a third of Pepper's entire five-part Chronology. Fortunately, now that "Thaddeus" is updated, I can turn to more manageable sections and get them out soon. 

One thing that I'd like to add to the Chronology, if it's possible to build it directly into the site, is some kind of search function. When the database was on my old Macintosh laptop, it was really quick and easy to do searches of musicians, dates or whatever was needed. If I wanted to check all the times Pepper recorded for a certain label, for example, or check how many times he recorded with a certain musician, or even see all the times he visited a certain location, the computer did it effortlessly. Now, with an iPad, I have to convert my original PDF files to iBooks and search it there. It's doable but not as good as if I could do it directly at pepperadams.com. 

Can you do Chronology searches on your computer? Please let me know. I'll be sure to discuss this with my trusty webmaster. If there's other things you think can improve the utility of the Chronology or other parts of the site, please volunteer that too.

Regarding the update of "Thaddeus," a few things attracted my attention. One was learning that Duke Pearson returned to New York from Atlanta in late November, 1972 to reconstitute his big band. From what I can tell, he kept his steady Half Note gig until the Summer of 1973.

Another thing that struck me was that Pepper participated in a number of benefits. Whether it was to assist the family of writer Ed Sherman, perform at the Dave Lambert Memorial Concert, participate at a benefit to restore the Apollo Theater, etc, Pepper was involved with the community.

Many sporting events are listed in "Thaddeus," thanks to Pepper's penchant for saving all sorts of memorabilia. When possible, links to my Instagram site show the original ticket stub or program. Pepper especially liked football and hockey but enjoyed spectator sports of all types.

I was reminded about the one-month gig Pepper did in New York with Ella Fitzgerald in 1967. Ironically, that was at a time when Tommy Flanagan was not her music director. Tee Carson was her pianist. 

I also forgot that my reader, Ron Ley, was Pepper's Best Man. Imagine that! Ley's comments will be some of the most compelling in the biography. As you can tell from his quote in the Prologue, he was very close with Pepper and witnessed him at pivotal moments.

Pepper's early role in jazz education also jumped out at me. With Thad Jones, Tom McIntosh and others (such as Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd), starting in the late 1960s Pepper was involved with the Wilmington Band Camp. Pepper also participated at the National Stage Band Camp.

The amount of "hit-and-runs," with those long, early-morning bus rides back to New York, was pretty startling. Adams' many gigs directly after long airplane flights, too, was a pretty frequent occurrence. The touring jazz life is grueling. Add to the lack of sleep cigarettes, alcohol, late nights and financial twists and turns and you get some sense of why so many jazz musicians, such as Pepper Adams, died far too young.

Another thing I was reminded of was the finite amount of time Pepper spent in the New York studios. He only got involved doing session work in about 1967. His participation, though limited by not doubling on bass clarinet, lasted until about 1976. He mostly did overdubs, especially on CTI dates in the early 1970s. But he was on some unusual projects, such as those by The Cowsills, Sonny Bono, The Nice and others. Of course, he also appears on many of the great early Aretha Franklin tracks for Atlantic. These were done as overdubs. He had no idea at the time for whom the music was crafted.

The number of gigs Pepper had in Baltimore for the Left Bank Jazz Society surprised me. There must be at least ten, maybe more? Also, the amount of work Pepper did with David Amram over the years is substantial. 

If anyone knows of the 2 June 1974 WBAI interview that Pepper did in New York with Larry Davis, I'd really like to hear it. That and a Phil Schaap telephone interview done on Mingus' birthday for WKCR (New York) are two radio interviews I'm eager to hear.

The length of "Thaddeus" is surprising. But, then again, Pepper's date books and memorabilia (including many band itineraries) helped me chronicle that part of his career more than any other. The sheer number of gigs and presumed gigs--at colleges, in California, or those many "possible" nights at the Vanguard--is staggering. Because so many remain unsubstantiated, much work remains to prove they actually happened. Please email me any discoveries.


                                  
                                                        (Thaddeus Joseph Jones)