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Somehow this past week I wrote a complete first draft of Chapter 2 of Pepper's biography. I had so many pages of notes from other times that I wrote about him or prepared college lectures. The chapter covers the period 1930-1947 and also dives into (as I discussed last week) Adams' parental genealogy. On the genealogy, I added more details about the derivation of the Adamses, all the way back to the Eleventh Century, and some more information on just how tough a dude his sixth great-grandfather, James Adams, was: how he survived the Battle of Dunbar, his march and incarceration, the voyage to the New World and his servitude. James Adams' grit and determination is part of Pepper Adams' DNA.
Here's how the chapter falls:
1. Father's history
3. Family music history
4. History of Rochester, New York
5. The move to New York, 1931-1935
6. Pepper, 1935 to his father's death in 1940
7. Rochester war effort
8. 1940s Rochester jazz scene
9. Pepper, 1941-1944
10. Duke Ellington and Rex Stewart at the Temple Theatre; its many implications
11. Raymond Murphy taks about Pepper
12. Jack Huggler talks about Pepper
13. The Elite
15. John Albert talks about Pepper Adams
Here's an excerpt from the chapter (without footnotes):
Although Adams was still playing in the New Orleans style, his taste in music was already very well developed in 1944.
I was studying more classical music at the time. Although I enjoyed jazz, which I listened to on the radio, which is what you did in those days, it was really classical music which interested me first. Then, when I started to hear Ellington and all those chords and voicings I knew immediately: . . . Debussy, Ravel, Elgar, Delius, the tonal palettes of twentieth-century music were all there. You know, the rough kind of excitement of the Basie band could be a lot of fun and I certainly liked them as soloists but Duke’s band was an entirely different ball game.”63
“Don’t put them next to nobody else,” cautioned Skippy Williams about the Ellington band.
That band, you couldn’t touch them! [Duke] would go back and get some old tricky things like “Caravan” and those kinds of things. He could put some chords on you. They would put some double augmented chords on you, six-note chords, and they would stretch it out in such a way, man, it would sound like five bands were swinging. He would change the chords and make them much heavier. Say, for instance, if you’re making C double augmented it would be C-D-G flat-A flat-B flat and he knew just where to put them to broaden the sound.64
“I was at a restaurant next door to the theater there downtown in Rochester,” said Williams. “Pepper came in and he told me he had heard me play and he liked my playing. He said he played tenor sax. . . . Back when I met him,” Williams continued, “I had taken Ben Webster’s place in Duke’s band. He was very enthused about that.”
I spent as much time as I could. He was working at a shoe store or something. . . . He was asking me about my tone and I told him some certain tricks, how to build his chops up. Well, see, a lot of guys, they try to use their lip a certain way. They don’t let the horn get the right, true sound. You got to let the reed do more vibrating. You have to know how to blow and how to use your belly. . . . He said, “Can I bring my horn by?” I said, “Sure. You can come by any time. . . .” He asked me, “How do you memorize all those things? I never see you looking at the music.” I said, “Next time, come up and look.” He looked up there. They had comic books. We carried about thirty or forty comic books at the time. People think, well, we’re reading Duke’s music but we’d be up there playing like hell and everybody’d be reading comic books.65