Saturday, May 16, 2015

Adams Biography, Straight Ahead

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

This week has been a busy one for me. Apart from the heavy demands of my day job, all of my free time has been put into polishing up Chapter 1 of Pepper's biography. For the last six weeks or so I've been thinking about Pepper's boyhood and how significant elders stepped in after the early death of his father. The music of Duke Ellington and Rex Stewart (one of those elders) has been playing non-stop in my car--and, now, constantly in my head--as the unofficial soundtrack to my work. 

The first chapter is in tip-top shape now, though I endless tweak things (a writer's curse) while I await word from my gifted readers Ron Ley and John Gennari. For the Prologue, they recommended other topics to discuss, as well as grammatical issues to repair. I expect much the same this time around. Then, it's back to writing.

Next week I'll start listening to Pepper's Duke Ellington 8-track material, then eventually move to his Charlie Parker and Tommy Flanagan compilations. Bird, of course, was a huge influence on Pepper, but so was Flanagan. Tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins pointed out in an article in Cadence that Pepper was playing Flanagan lines. Can anyone recommend specific Flanagan solos that I should check out that are markedly similar to Pepper's playing style? I know that Chicago drummer George Fludas felt that the head of Pepper's composition "Conjuration" was very much written in a graceful Flanagan/Detroit feel, but how about some solos to compare? So far, I'm only hearing a similarity when they play fast double-time passages.

While tweaking Chapter 1, I'll move on to researching Chapter 2. That chapter will involve discussing Pepper's father, his side of the family and Pepper's early days in Rochester, New York. It will probably dovetail into a long discussion about Detroit. I'll need to go back and listen again to many interviews I conducted more than twenty years ago. That will be lots of fun and quite nostalgic. I shared many phone calls with so many great musicians, many of whom are no longer with us. In addition, I'll be reaquainting myself with the music of Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas, Art Tatum, Wardell Gray and Sonny Stitt, all important early influences on Pepper. I don't expect a first draft of Chapter 2 for quite some time, but you never know!

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