Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tony Inzalaco Interview

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

In the 1960s, New Jersey born and bred Tony Inzalaco was an in-demand drummer on the New York City jazz scene. In 1968, he left for Europe, where he stayed for ten years. While overseas, he played with Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Art Farmer and many other great American exiles. "It was a family over there," he told me. Later in his career, Buddy Rich chose Inzalaco to play drums in his place, when Rich decided for a time to front his band as a singer. My fascinating two-hour conversation with Tony Inzalaco last week covered a lot of ground, though the core focus was about Pepper Adams. What follows are some of Tony's profound observations about Pepper and the music scene. For those who want to know more about Inzalaco, see and

Pepper Adams:
"A lot of people don't know a lot of the really great musicians because they were not band leaders. They were always sidemen. Pepper was one of those people; a master musician, with a history of recording with so many different people and being able to make music at a very high level throughout his career."

"Pepper was a gentleman, and he was very intelligent. He had a lot of integrity. If you or anyone tried to push him past a certain point, he was also internally very strong, He didn't take anything from anybody. If somebody tried to push him off his thought or whatever, he would stop them and straighten them out immediately. I was present in one of those situations but I don't recall who the person was. My recollection was that he was a jerk, and was way over the line with whatever comments he was making, and Pepper straightened him out right away. And that was the first time I had seen that part of his personality."

"I think if he played a different instrument, people would have had a better understanding of him. It just seems like the baritone does not excite people. I don't know why. But if you know anything about music, and you understand what Pepper plays and how he plays it, it's brilliant! It doesn't matter what instrument he's playing. It's the content of the creation that's important. . . When you look at the other baritone players, like Harry Carney--who was a great baritone player but his thing was mostly sound and knowing how to make Duke's music live. Pepper is a bebop guy. Rhythmically, he's a bebop guy. For me, that music is in a different strata."

About Pepper not getting his due: 
"He always seemed to be above that. I never sensed that he was bitter in any way. I always found him to be a quality human being, dealing with whatever came his way without classifying himself as a victim. There's so many people that make excuses for things that you can't control. . . It just struck me that a man of his enormous talent never seemed to be negative, how everything came to him and how real fame seemed to elude him. There's other instances on other instruments where guys were really great and were just in the wrong period of time because of scenes--got lost in the shuffle. [Pepper] didn't get lost. Again, he was the bebop representative. . . That's part of the sadness about this because a lot of the people that are very famous are questionable in terms of their spirit. In other words, if you were going to have a party, you probably wouldn't invite them."

Duke Pearson:
"Duke and Donald Byrd had a big band that was working at the Half Note on Monday nights. They were the counter band to Thad and Mel. Bobby Cranshaw, for whatever reason, took a liking to me. We played together on certain things. We hit it off well. At the time, he was working with Ella, along with Mickey Roker, and so when they went out of town, they would have to get subs. Cranshaw recommended me. That's how I got to do some of those Monday nights with that band. I don't know if it was [conceived by] one of the [Cantarino] brothers at the club there, to give the other club some competition. They didn't have as many seats. I think it was a good idea, just to have another big band with a different kind of approach. Duke Pearson was one of my favorite people. He was a romantic composer. He was like Puccini to me. The 'Jazz Puccini.' He was a joyful human being. He's another one of the gems that people never really got to know that well because he was behind the scenes a lot as an A&R man. The first time I played with them, there were two great tenor players. I don't know if it was Joe Henderson but it was definitely George Coleman."

Joe Henderson and Chuck Israels rehearsal bands in the 1960s:
"Joe Henderson had a band that used to rehearse. Also, the bass player, Chuck Israels, had a rehearsal band, and I did both of those. It was open to people who were in the inner circle. Whoever was available they would call, and if they couldn't do it, call the next guy. It is a rehearsal band and there's no money involved. With Joe's band, there was a guy by the name of Tom, an Italian guy. He had a studio in the Village. That was one of the places I remember Joe's band rehearsing. I think he gave guys a really good price to use the studio."

New York in the 1960s:
"In those years, if you were on the scene, you were allowed to go to the clubs free of charge. Those who played the clubs had free access to those playing the other clubs. It was a family."

Regarding the lack of musicians hanging out in New York the 1980s and beyond
"A lot of that has to do with changing of laws. We used to work from 10 o'clock until 4 o'clock. All the clubs were that way, and then, when they started to change the liquor laws . . . I remember one time I ran into Freddie Hubbard. He said, 'You know, it's all different now. We do two shows. That's it. If the people want to stay for the second show, they gotta pay again.' In Birdland, you could go and stay all night, if you wanted. Nobody harassed you in the gallery. The whole atmosphere changed, and all of sudden a lot of people were playing festivals, these big venues, where they could draw huge crowds and get a lot of money. The whole system of finance completely changed. When I say the law changed, before, people would be drunk, disorderly, and they would go on their way. But, when they started to prosecute bartenders if they kept serving people that were inebriated, that's what I mean. You didn't get the hanger-on people. The last set at Birdland, there was still a lot of people. Not the people with the furs and all of that crap, who would come in early and sit at the tables and get some food and stuff. It's a different kind of people, a different kind of atmosphere. . . A lot of the clubs, because of different behaviors that were criminal--people getting shot, people getting stabbed--it didn't help. Even Oscar Goodstein at Birdland. Somebody stabbed him. Just bad stuff! . . . Then the English people came over here with that other garbage. The rock 'n roll business took over. . . You gotta understand: Pepper was a bebop guy. . . It's probably the most intelligent form of music that was ever available, so it put a lot of people off. In the meantime, the English people came over and started [imitating] the rhythm and blues people."

Elvin Jones and Mel Lewis:
"These are two different dynamics. Elvin is really one of the great, great drummers. He is not just a great drummer but he was an innovator. He was like what Kenny Clarke was before--and this line of drummers that produced the bebop thing. Elvin could do that, but he synthesized all of that stuff and also got to this other plateau of what he does, which involved a lot of triplets and over-the-bar kind of long phrases. Mel is more of a predictable kind of player. A lot of people like his time feel. Somehow, he simplifies what he does. But in terms of playing the instrument, Elvin is a drummer. Mel plays the drums and is a good musician. There is a difference between a guy who's a great drummer and a great musician. Elvin has great intuition. I think that's what sets him apart."

Jazz in exile due to the black backlash:
"We were like a family over there. Just a lot of Americans that saw what was happening in the States and were very lucky that things opened up for them in Europe. That's why I left. Some time in 67, there was some kind of a revolution in terms of black people, black musicians. I was one of the people that worked with Billy Taylor. I guess every drummer in New York worked with Billy Taylor at a certain point in time. When I was with him, Henry Grimes was the bass player, who was magnificent! One day, Billy called me and said, 'Tony, don't be offended but I was instructed that I can't hire any white people any longer, and so I just want you to know that this is not my thing but it's a movement.' The only guy who didn't adhere to the movement in any way, shape or form was Bob Cranshaw, because he could do anything, he was totally non-prejudiced, just a great spirit."

"Anybody who really loved this art has to have known the history of the art. And so, you study everyone that preceded your arrival. If you want to become something, you have to understand the styles--the sound that they got, how they did what they did. And, of course, whatever in their playing is attractive to you, you assimilate that and use it with your own viewpoint. That's the only way that people can be part of the history. Nobody comes along and plays anything that's really new. It's a synthesis of all the [players] before . . . and what [you've] come to because of that. So I think that's part of the challenge of this art: to come up with what history has provided for you and come out of that with your own voice. It takes time, and it takes a lot of love, and it takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of hard work."

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Happened to The Big Band and Tentet CDs?

After last week's stimulating experience interviewing Detroit pianist Charles Boles, this week was pretty sleepy by comparison. I did exchange emails with Chip McNeill at the University of Illinois regarding the long awaited CD of big band performances of Pepper Adams tunes. Unfortunately, the Illinois state budget is still on shaky ground and McNeil's esteemed jazz program has suffered because of it. For the past few years, Illinois has slashed public college educational spending. Limited resources has kept McNeill from having the revenue to, among other things, release the date on Armored Records. He told me that if he has any money left over at the end of this semester, he'll finally be able to release the CD.

This is the recording that features arrangements by the superb British drummer and arranger Tony Faulkner. In order for Faulkner to get paid, travel from England to North America for a month tour of concerts and lectures with me, and pay for the mastering of the original concert done at the University of Illinois, Tony and I oversaw a stressful but ultimately successful 30-day Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2013. Somehow we exceeded our goal of $7000.  On behalf of Tony Faulkner, I want to thank all of you for your funding of the project. We remain eternally grateful.

One large contributor was baritone saxophonist Jon Gudmundson, who leads the jazz program at Utah State University. It was Jon's three-part goal to perform some of these charts, feature a guest soloist at the concert, and invite me to speak about Pepper. That dream is finally coming to fruition in a few weeks. His big band is performing these tough Faulkner charts on Wednesday night, April 5, in Logan, Utah, with baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall as soloist. I'll be doing some kind of pre-concert talk, plus lecturing at a jazz class the day before. While in Utah, I'm also doing lectures at Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, and possibly a few other schools.

The big band recording that Tony and I worked on was to be Volume 6 of my multi-volume CD series of Pepper's music. My record label, Motema, cut me loose after Volume 5 due to lackluster sales. At that point, not having a label, Chip and Glenn Wilson took back the project, deciding to search for a label or self-produce it through the university. After announcing its release on Armored, I thought the issue was concluded. Two winters ago the date was scheduled for release. Then I heard something about the owner's wife having a baby. Now it's Illinois' budget problem. We're nearly four years after the date has been recorded. Because of it being in limbo for far longer than any of us thought possible, the patience of some of my donors has no doubt been tried. Chip McNeill does not want me to release an edited version on CD Baby that we produced for Motema. In respect to his wishes, I continue to wait. Almost all of the donors will be receiving a surprise CD in the mail. I wish I knew when!

In the mail this week arrived a sampler CD, All Blues, from Denny Christianson, director of Humber College's great jazz program: Sometime after Tony Faulkner and I lectured at Humber in Toronto in the Fall of 2013, Christianson directed his Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble to record a collection of tunes, one of which was Pepper Adams' composition Doctor Deep. Finally, there's a well-produced studio version of one of Tony charts! Despite so many great concerts of his Adams charts done in 2012 and 2013, and even with the prospect of doing two recordings of Faulkner's arrangements, this Humber recording is the first and only commercial release of anything he wrote. The main reason why Tony worked so hard was to create a book of material that could be performed by big band and tentet, some of which would be recorded. The Illinois date has languished, obviously, and a live tentet recording led by drummer Tim Horner didn't turn out as expected and won't be released.

Speaking of drummers, I just received this email out of the blue from drummer Tony Inzalaco. It was a response to an email I sent to him last November:

Hi Gary;  I am replying to your email concerning working with Pepper Adams, etc. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond but I rarely check the email that you contacted me on. I would be happy to speak with you about Pepper but not by email. So if you are interested I would prefer speaking via telephone. You can either send me your number or request my number. Park was one of the great gentlemen of Jazz and his body of work is a testament of his artistic level of excellence.   

Tony Inzalaco

Here's my original email:

Hi Tony: In my interview with Pepper Adams, he mentioned playing with you in Atlantic City. He said it was a sextet led by Maynard Ferguson. I've been able to approximate the dates as cApr 20-24, 1965 and cApr 27-May 2, 1965. Might you remember who else was in that band, the venue, or anything else about it? Did you work with Pepper on any other occasions?

I'm scheduled to interview Tony this afternoon

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

In a few weeks,'s webmaster, Dan Olson, and I will be adding audio content of some of these big band performances of Faulkner's charts from 2013, including some great things on YouTube that haven't been seen because they're not properly indexed. By then, I should know if I'm going abroad in late September to give a presentation about Pepper Adams and Detroit in Darmstadt, Germany. My research over the last few months has been working toward having something of substance to present in Germany. If it comes to pass, I've been invited to Prague to stay with tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts. He'll no doubt do a gig of Pepper tunes when I'm there, hopefully with a big band, since he too arranged a few big band charts of Pepper's music. I'm hoping to lecture about Pepper at a few schools, including possibly the Prague Conservatory, if all works out.              
                            (Tony Faulkner)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Charles Boles Looks Back

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I had a wonderful, hourlong conversation yesterday with Detroit pianist Charles Boles. Boles attended Northern High School with Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd and Sonny Red, and studied privately, as so many of that era did, with Barry Harris. Boles witnessed and participated in Detroit's Golden Age of Jazz. His career spans seven decades and he's still performing in Detroit. Boles has worked with a who’s who of musicians, including Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. Many thanks to Ken Kellett for setting up the FaceTime call and for participating as an amused and valuable observer. Rather than summarize my conversation, I'm going to let Charles speak for himself:

Miles at the Blue Bird in the summer of 1954:
Miles didn’t want to see Thad come in there because Thad would eat him up! . . . Miles would come to work and he would ask the owner even before he hit a note, ‘Can I get $50?’ Clarence Eddins would say, ‘Well, you gotta play at least one tune!’ So Miles would go up there and say, ‘Blues in F.’ He’d hit one note and then he’d walk off the bandstand and say, ‘Gimme $50.’ While the band was playing, [with] this guy ‘No Neck’ (who was a frightening looking guy), they would come out of the Blue Bird, go to the corner. (There was a light at the corner of Tireman and Beechwood.) They’d just be waiting for any car that would come along where the door was unlocked and they’d just get in. ‘No Neck’ would say, ‘Take us downtown.’ They’d go down to this hotel. I think it was called the Hotel Theresa then. It was right there on Adams and Hastings. They would go into this hotel to get high, and they’d come back outside of the hotel, after they got high, and they’d repeat the same scenario: Go to the corner, wait for a car to come along with an unlocked door, and they’d open the door and just get in and say, 'Take us to the Blue Bird.’

Pepper Adams:
I saw him all the time. I saw him at Barry’s house. He’d be always at the World Stage but he’d be at Barry’s house a lot. It was on Russell, upstairs over a grocery store.

Paradise Valley:
The Valley was only maybe two or three or four blocks long, from Hastings Street and Adams to, say, John R and Adams.

Northern High School:
Of course, we were there for band rehearsal, and to go to Choral at Fifth Hour. Claude [Black] was in the choral group with me. We all did the Messiah every year. We were very good. They had a very good music teacher there, Claire Weimer. . . . I couldn’t play in the concert band because I couldn’t read as well as Donald Byrd’s sister, Margie Byrd. She was a classical pianist. So I ended up playing bells in the concert band, and then I played piano in the dance band. They very rarely played any dances. We just played jazz tunes, and blues of course. In that band were people like Donald Byrd and Sonny Red, Paul [Chambers]. Paul and I used to eat lunch together every day. When he got to the Tenth Grade, he went to Cass. Him and Donald Byrd both.

The reason why Paul Chambers and Donald Byrd went to Northern High School the first year of high school was because Northern started in Ninth Grade. Donald Byrd was a neighbor of mine, maybe three or four blocks from me in Detroit, in the North End. Paul lived on the East Side somewhere. . . In that class at Northern was Claude Black. . . He was switching from trombone to piano, and there was Sonny Red there. He was in the band. There was Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers, Bobby Barnes. . . . The teacher was Orvis Lawrence, a barroom, stride piano player, if you will. A very good Teddy-Wilson-type piano player. A very good musician. He could really tell you what to do musically. He was knowledgeable. He kept a bottle in his desk drawer and he’d always go back there and get laced. The best thing about that era--and even after Donald Byrd and them left--was at the Seventh Hour there would always be people like Tommy Flanagan, Bess Bonnier, Roland Hanna. These guys showed up every day at the Seventh Hour to jam. What you didn’t know you could learn from hanging out with these guys. . . Orville Lawrence would allow you to continue to stay there and play until maybe 4 o’clock. School got out at 3 o’clock. 

We would leave and go to one of two houses after school. At Bobby Barnes’ house, Roland Hanna was the piano player, Gene Taylor was the bass player, Claude Black played trombone, and Bobby Barnes played the sax. Sometimes we’d go to Bobby Barnes’ house, who lived on Russell on the North End, or we’d go to Barry Harris’ house. Sonny Red would go back and forth. . . . We would come out of Northern High School--me and Paul Chambers and Sonny Red--and we’d catch the Woodward bus (the Woodward bus ran north and south) downtown to, say, Warren, and then you’d catch the crosstown bus to Russell. And then you’d catch the Russell bus to Barry’s house. I tell you what: When we went to Barry Harris’ house, more than likely you’re gonna get slaughtered! You know what they do? They would egg you on, and do everything they could do to get you to play, and then they’d play something like Cherokee or some hard-ass tune. Of course they’d play it at some ridiculous speed but you couldn’t keep up. So you’d go home and you’d practice that all week long, and you go back and they’d play it in A or play it in some other ridiculous key that would have nothing to do with the tune at all. They’d say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m in A. Whatever you practiced would be null and void. You could barely play in B-flat! When you get your butt kicked at Barry Harris’ house, then you’d slink on over to Bobby Barnes’ house the next two or three days. You wouldn’t dare show your face at Barry Harris’ house when you got killed already. He was a master teacher, though. I tell you what: If you continued to go there, he would help you. He would teach you how to improvise.

Legendary trumpeter Claire Rocquemore:
The great Claire Rocquemore? He could play anything. He’d wear Miles out. He’d wear anybody out. Donald didn’t want to get on the bandstand with him. He ended up being strung out. And he didn’t go anywhere. He would always be around, when he could keep it together, and kick everybody’s butt. He was at Barry’s house all the time.

Kenny Burrell:
He and I went to the same church together. I knew his mother and his grandmother. It was a church in Greektown called Second Baptist. The oldest black church. 200 years old.

Doug Watkins:
Doug was around at Northern too. Definitely at Barry’s house. It was almost a situation where it was either Doug or Paul. They were in fierce competition.

Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris:
Nobody could be like Willie Anderson. Everybody tried to be like Barry. . . . Here are two different guys that played the same style but in a different way. My explanation of it is that Barry is a direct link from Bud whereas Tommy Flanagan is a direct link from Teddy Wilson. It’s a difference in the touch, the way they play. . . In the beginning, Barry really wanted to be like Art Tatum but he didn’t have the strength. Tatum played really light but he was fleet. . . . The competition was so fierce here. You’d be around people like Barry, you’d be around people like Tommy Flanagan. These guys were like mythical!

Roland Hanna:
Roland was completely different. I went over to Bobby Barnes’ house and there was Roland. He and Gene Taylor had drank up a half a gallon of wine. Every day they would get together at 10, 11 o’clock playing classical music. I never knew where Roland went to school. Roland said to me, ‘I wanna be a classical pianist. I don’t want to play jazz.’ He could read fly shit. He was scary to be around.”

Hastings Street Scene:
I played on Hastings Street, which was a red light district. I played on that street for ten damn years. The cops came down on Hastings Street. The deal was that you either got, ‘Give me some head or give me some booty, or give me all your money.’ I saw them shoot a prostitute in the back and kill her. Her name was Charlene. I’ll never forget it. Killed her dead, right? And the people know the police did it but they got away with it because she refused to give them any money and she wasn’t going to give them booty that night. She was tired of screwing the police for free. That was in the fifties. I played on Hastings Street off and on from 48 to 58. The deal was you give up some booty or you give up some money, or else you’re going to jail.
                       (Charles Boles)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Forthcoming Books on Detroit Music

Soon after my entry was posted last Sunday, I got a reply from Thomas Glusac. HIs father, Rodney Glusac, had been interviewed by Mark Slobin for a book Slobin was writing about the music culture of Detroit. Slobin, a retired professor at Wesleyan University, is an acclaimed ethnomusicologist who grew up in Detroit, attended Cass, and was educated at the University of Michigan. Glusac included in his reply this link, totally new to me: It's a lecture Slobin gave in 2016 at the Library of Congress. Entitled "Improvising a Musical Metropolis: Detroit, 1940s-1960s," it gives a sense of his interests and the nature of his research. 

As Slobin points out in his lecture, "There is no book that is the life of any American city's music in any period of time." What intrigues me especially, of course, is Slobin's timeframe. Adams returned to Detroit in 1947 and left in early 1956. Slobin's work corresponds to Pepper's experience in his hometown.

Intrigued, I emailed Slobin after watching his lecture, wanting to know more about his research and when the book might be published. Fortunately, it's finished and has been submitted for publication. I suspect we'll see it sometime in 2017. 

Mark told me that he's giving a talk in Ann Arbor for the University on March 15: "They asked me to come up with something on Detroit in 1943, which happens to be my birth year, and the talk is on my birthday." If you're in the area, stop in to hear his talk on the Detroit Riot of 1943 and its many implications. Wish him a happy birthday for me, while you're at it.

                                       (Mark Slobin)

A second important book about Detroit's musical culture that we can expect in 2017 is Made in Detroit: Jazz from the Motor City. It's a collection of jazz profiles by Mark Stryker, former Detroit Free Press Arts Reporter and Critic. Stryker took a buy-out from the newspaper in December, 2016 after twenty-one years on the job. Stryker had been making progress on his book but the day job (as I well know) got in the way. Now, Stryker can finish it up. (He's currently at work on the Milt Jackson chapter.) Judging from his superb piece on Thad Jones, the book should be an excellent contribution to jazz history:

                                                          (Thad Jones)

Stryker's book, as I understand it, will be comprised of pieces about a handful of important Detroit jazz musicians. Some (a la Gary Giddins, Whitney Balliett and others) will be reworked pieces that he wrote earlier. That's a good thing because few of us have had the good fortune to read them. Will he be writing about Pepper Adams? No, he told me. That's my gig. Gee, isn't there anyone else out there who wants to write about Pepper?

                                          (Mark Stryker)