Monday, May 6, 2019

Romping through the Midwest

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.


I left for my tour of the Midwest on April 8 and returned on the 23rd. I needed a full week to catch my

breath upon my return. After two solid years of writing Pepper’s biography on top of (or in between)

work, the trip really took its toll. I drove more than 1,000 miles from St. Louis to Macomb and back, and

then from Minneapolis to Madison and back. Half the trip was a vacation in Minneapolis with my old

college buddies, and there was a lot of carousing.

Before I left, one of my loyal biography readers encouraged me, once I got some distance, to reread the

first half of my forthcoming Pepper biography. He said that my writing had improved over the last two

years and that I’d probably find some things to tweak that no longer would seem acceptable. He said,

“more work equals a better book.” He was right! A few days after my return, I started reading my

opening paragraph of Chapter 1 and immediately saw things to alter. Accordingly, for the next few weeks

or longer, I’ll be editing the first half of the biography for publication this summer as an e-book. More

details will follow, once I’m done and figure out the vendor, etc.

I still have five more interviews on cassette, a handful of radio interviews, and about fifty interviews on

microcasette to listen to before I can make my final additions to Chapter Five and possibly the rest of

the book. What I’ve found by listening to these interviews is the unexpected gems here and there that,

when stripped into the text, add meaning and context to the text I’ve already written. I discovered some

of these today in my interview with the trombonist Bill Watrous. In some cases, as with my interview the

the drummer Eddie Locke, I’ve had to write new paragraphs that I wasn’t anticipating because of the

importance of the testimony.

On my journey throughout the Midwest, I came to the conclusion that I’d prefer to put off doing the

hardcore listening of Pepper’s recorded work from 1956-1977 until next year. That work will be

discussed in two separate appendices, as I’ve already done with the some fifty pages of text I wrote

about Pepper’s recordings during the period 1977-1986. All of the tunes I discuss in the appendices will

include links to YouTube so that the reader can immediately listen to the music. Much of it has never

been heard before.

Putting off the listening allows me to complete the biography this year. Because I’m on a roll and only

one chapter away, it’s far more gratifying to have that (as one wag once described a hemorrhoid) behind


I’m especially grateful to the wonderful hospitality that I was shown on my trip by my gracious guests. My

first visit was to Western Illinois University, to visit with my co-author, John Vana, and then speak to his

graduate class, “The Big Three: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Pepper Adams.” At the St. Louis

Airport the following day, my flight got delayed for nearly three hours due to the snow storm that was

moving through the Midwest. The Minneapolis Airport was closed during that time so they could clean

the runways and catch up on all the delayed flights. I was indeed lucky to land in Minneapolis at 7pm and

still have some fun there, rather than be placed in an airport hotel and fly out the next morning. I think the

flights after me were grounded.

The following Sunday night, I met the alto saxophonist Jeff Erickson for dinner, where I proceeded to

download for hours the essence of my two years of Pepper research. Thanks, Jeff, for listening, and for

allowing me to get that out of my system! The following day, I lectured to his jazz survey class at the

University of Wisconsin/La Crosse. Then I drove about a half hour up the pretty Mississippi River to

Winona, where I had dinner with the drummer, Rich MacDonald., Afterwards, I lectured about Pepper to

his class.

The following day, I drove some 200 miles to Madison, then spent the evening with the baritone

saxophonist Anders Svanoe. Svanoe did one of the first books for Scarecrow. See for all his work on the Detroiter. Obviously, we had a lot to discuss. After

eating some rather average food in LaCrosse and Winona, it was great to eat Nepalese, Laotian and

Mexican food during my stay. Svanoe took me around the main campus of the University of Wisconsin,

and the following day we looked over his Red memorabilia, then drove to Beloit College, where I lectured

to his jazz class.

That night Svanoe did an impassioned set of Pepper Adams tunes with a tasty rhythm section at

Madison’s Arts and Literature Lab. It’s an intimate setting for music, and we had a small but enthusiastic

turnout on a Wednesday night. My pre-concert talk to the audience and Anders’ performance was

captured on video. It will be posted soon at Many thanks to Thomas Ferrella, for his

support of the center and his wonderful hospitality. I hope more folks support it:   

The last lecture I gave was to Chris Merz’s class at the University of Northern Iowa. Chris studied with

Yusef Lateef and had been waiting for the right time for me to visit. Fortunately, we fit it in this time around.

I drove 200 miles to Cedar Falls, leaving Madison at 6:45am, to get to his class in time. Fatigued but

undaunted, I found his class to be among the most spirited of any class I’ve taught about Pepper. I was

excited to go there, because over the past twenty or so years Chris has built the finest program in the

state of Iowa. Sure enough, his students, especially the saxophonists in attendance, were very engaged

and it was a memorable experience -- for me up there with Eastman, Brigham Young, and only a few


That night, after we had dinner in Cedar Falls, I heard Merz at a jam session. He’s a very fine tenor

player. He was worried because I told him how displeased I was with Joshua Redman’s performance in

Hopkins MN a few days before. After the gig, I told him how much I loved his playing; how much joy he

exuded, how his lines swung so logically. Like Pepper once said, try to tell a story by getting conversation


Part of my vacation I stayed with my webmaster, Dan Olson. We discussed at

length, coordinating the future post with Svanoe, and charting the site’s future. We spent hours sorting

through the remaining Adams interviews that still needed to be posted. Right after I returned home,

“Danno” made some significant updates to the site. Due to a discovery I made after hearing an interview

with Pat Henry, the San Francisco deejay and the producer of Mel Lewis’ very first date as a leader, the

longstanding riddle about the publisher of “A Winter’s Tale” has mostly been solved:

Significantly, the Adams Interviews page has been updated and nearly completed:

We will be changing the contact email from to this blog so that we can drive

some more traffic and so that folks who email additions, etc, get replies in a timely manner.

Lastly, I’ve made some new additions to Pepper’s Instagram site, with some other photos forthcoming. Hopefully, I don’t repeat too many posts already on the site.

As always, I welcome your comments, and continue to be very grateful for all your support.

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