Sunday, April 1, 2018
More Pepper Biography News
It's been a dense month of listening to the many interviews that I conducted with a bunch of Detroiters, such as Hugh Lawson, Bess Bonnier, Phil Levine, Curtis Fuller and others. I still have a number of them to hear. All of them relate to Pepper's early days in Detroit.
The value of listening to them is to find little gems of information that I can still add to the book, or to make factual corrections to the existing text. When I add new text, of course, I have to take my time writing a new paragraph here and there, and then go through a series of rewrites. Here's a few examples of some new text. (I'm still researching what instrument Vigiletti played):
Adams’ friends mostly referred to him as “Pepper.” Some affectionately shortened his nickname to “Pep.” Others, such as Barry Harris, called him “Mr. Peepers,” because of his similarity, in appearance and affect, to the mild-mannered, bespectacled actor Wally Cox who portrayed Mr. Peepers on the popular American television comedy of the same name that ran from 1952-55. Some of Pepper’s oldest friends, such as Elvin Jones, preferred his birth name, “Park.”
Some Detroit musicians, however, didn’t care for Pepper’s playing. “When I got home from the army,” said Adams, “I discovered that what was mod and fashionable on baritone then was the very light, tender sound, and I had a number of people tell me quite seriously that if I ever expected to stay in music I would have to alter the way I was playing.” Several of these judgmental white musicians not only objected to Adams’ big sound, thinking it old-fashioned and too “black,” but they didn’t like his use of harmony, thinking that he didn’t know what he was doing. “He was so far in front of everybody,” said Hugh Lawson. “They mocked him because they didn’t understand it. That’s like Elvin Jones. They were so far in front.”
Three white players, however, did admire what Pepper was doing: Joe Vigiletti, the drummer Norman Purple, and the baritone saxophonist Frank Morelli. All three of them, according to Lawson, followed Pepper around from gig to gig. Morelli, who would much later take Curtis Fuller’s place in Yusef Lateef’s group, idolized Adams and wanted to study with him. Although Pepper was grateful for the admiration, as a “self-taught” player he somehow felt ill-equipped, despite his many accomplishments already, to teach the baritone saxophone to a younger devotee.
My co-author, John Vana, and I have at long last set up the contents of the entire Pepper Adams biography (see below). Again, our publication date is 2030, the centennial of Pepper's birth. The first half of the book is 100 pages in length, not including front matter. My last half of the book will be written in reverse chronological order. Chapter Four will cover the time when Adams was married, mostly after he left the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Chapter Five will cover his thirteen-year period of time playing with Thad Jones. Chapter Six will deal with Pepper's arrival in New York until late 1964.
The formation of the Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet, by the way, has been scaled back eight months, from March, 1965 to September, 1964. It turns out that the Quintet played gigs in New York City not soon after both Thad and Mel left the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band. This predates by two months Thad and Pepper's contribution to Oliver Nelson's legendary recording More Blues and the Abstract Truth. This new information will be reflected in changes that I will be making to my Adams chronology, posted at pepperadams.com.
As you can see by the headings below, Part Two of the forthcoming Adams book will give John Vana a chance to chart Pepper's growth as a soloist, discuss significant recordings throughout Pepper's thirty-year career, reveal his enduring legacy, and to get deeply into his important and extensive analysis of "The Big Three: Parker, Coltrane and Adams." I think that this section will be one of the most influential aspects of the book. Think of it: No one -- historians or fans -- puts Pepper Adams in their league. Yet he rightful belongs there, as Vana will explain through the use of numerous musical examples and carefully reasoned explication of what each has done in their playing career. All music examples will be posted at pepperadams.com.
As for the site itself, numerous upgrades have been made already to pepperadams.com. Please check it out.
Foreword by ________________ ix
The Life of Pepper Adams
Chapter 1: What Is It?
Interlude: Detroit Drives the Nation
What Is It? (Part II)
Chapter 2: Inanout
Interlude: A Brief History of Rochester, New York
Inanout (Part II)
Chapter 3: Binary
Interlude: Detroit Jazz, 1922-1954
Binary (Part II)
Chapter 4: Now in Our Lives
Chapter 5: Conjuration
Chapter 6: Urban Dreams
The Music of Pepper Adams
Chapter 7: The Emergence of an Original Style
Chapter 8: The Big Three: Parker, Coltrane and Adams
Chapter 9: Key Recordings
Chapter 10: Jazz Innovator
About the Authors