Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pepper Adams Anthology

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I've decided to edit an anthology of articles about Pepper. It would be a beautiful complement to my other two Pepper books (including the biography, which I've begun) and CDs. Anyone interested in contributing? It needs to be published by Fall, 2015, when another Pepper tour takes place. That means it would have to be finished by the end of 2014. Here's what I have so far:

1. Gary Carner, Rue Serpente (from Jazz Forschung)
2. Gary Carner, overview of Pepper's style from master's thesis
3. John Vana, Pepper Adams' Early Solo Style to 1960
4. Aaron Lington, excerpt from Pepper dissertation

5. Ken Kellett: "I Remember Pepper"
6. Frank Griffith: Reminiscences of Pepper and arranging Rue Serpente and Reflectory
7. Barry Wallenstein: Lyrics to Eight Adams Compositions.
8. Tony Faulkner: A Study of Pepper's Compositions
9. Jim Merod: Overview of Pepper's recordings
10. Bevan Manson: Compositional Aspects of Pepper's Tunes
11. Various previously published articles, interviews, and liner notes.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Duke Ellington Gig in Rochester NY Discovered

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Thanks to a huge database of Ellington gigs available on-line, I was able to redefine when Pepper was befriended by Rex Stewart and where it took place. The site is  

Here's a taste from my forthcoming Pepper biography:

The following March, after he purchased his first saxophone, Pepper attended all three performances of the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the Temple Theatre, a movie palace built in 1909 at 35 Clinton Avenue South in downtown Rochester. On March 5, 1944, the last night of the engagement, Ellington trumpeter Rex Stewart was curious about the enthusiastic, short-haired thirteen-year-old kid with horn-rimmed glasses he noticed sitting by himself in the balcony. Intrigued, Stewart made his way upstairs, introduced himself, then brought Adams backstage to meet Ellington's illustrious musicians.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cleo Adams Burial Plot Discovered

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Thanks to Google, I somehow managed to find the appropriate site with a listing of those buried at cemetaries in Columbia City, Indiana. Sure enough, I discovered that Pepper's mother, Cleo, was buried at South Park Cemetery at 1500 South State Road 205 in Columbia City in Section 2, Row 26, Stone 1. Next to her is ostensibly her mother, Minnie B. Coyle. For me, this is just the beginning of discovering Pepper's maternal antecedents. I've sent emails to the Mayor's office and to the Genealogical Society of Whitley County asking for assistance in finding where Pepper lived with his mother's family c. 1931-1934.

Big Band CD Update

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

There's been some movement over the last week regarding the release of The Complete Pepper Adams, Volume 6. Motema is now proposing a October 8, 2014 release, to coincide with Pepper's 84th birthday, along with a tour to celebrate his music that would include events in Chicago, Virginia and North Carolina, New York City, and London. No decision has been made about whether the CD will be released physically or digitally, but the basic plan is to do college clinics and lectures (as on the previous two tours), but also concerts in Chicago, New York, and London. One idea is to get the University of Illinois Concert Jazz Band to play Chicago's Jazz Showcase, then fly them over to the London Jazz Festival in mid-November, along with a 3-bari group including Gary Smulyan. Between Adams' birthday and the London events, the intervening time could be filled with gigs hither and yon, including several in New York. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Readers Appreciated

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Many thanks to all my friends who took the time to read the Prologue and Chapter 1 of my Pepper Adams biography in progress. Thanks too to those who commented on the proposed title of the book.
I've made some tweaks to the Prologue and I'm still reassessing Chapter 1.

It's a windy, rainy day here north of Atlanta, so I'm curling up with two books that are indispensable to would-be biographers: Milton Lomask's The Biographer's Craft and Leon Edel's Writing Lives: Pricipia Biographica.  There's so much wisdom in these works.

Kickstarter gifts in gratitude for donations to Volume 6 (big band date) of my Pepper Adams CD project and recent Pepper Adams book/concert tour will be mailed starting next week. Those expecting Tony Faulkner's arranging manuscript should expect a slight delay, as he's just now back in England working on it.  Those who are expecting Skype arranging lessons should hear from Faulkner soon to schedule them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Over the last week I've been developing the first chapter of my Pepper Adams biography. So far it's a short overview of how isolation and being on his own informed Pepper's life. I'm using the chapter to set a tone for the book, and as a bridge to the pivotal early moment in Adams' life, described at length in Chapter 2, when Adams first borrows a baritone sax from Grinnell's, the music store he was working at for only a few weeks as a Christmas extra in 1947. In Chapter 1 I've also written about trumpeter Rex Stewart, who became a very significant father figure to Pepper two years after Pepper's father died, when Pepper was nine years old.

The working title of my book is Pepper Adams: Jazz King of the Baritone Sax.  Any feedback on the title? My editor at Scarecrow thinks the subtitle is a logical way to market the book to a larger audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pepper Biography Begun

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Throughout my recent book and concert tour, people asked me when they can expect to read my companion Pepper Adams biography. I joked that quality takes time, or that it would certainly take less time to do the biography than the nearly thirty years it took me to finish Joy Road. Privately, however, I wasn't sure when I'd start writing, and I knew that it would take many years to do a full-length biography worthy of him. 

Well, I'm really happy to report that, after being inspired last night by the beautifully crafted film The Book Thief, I've begun writing the biography. This morning I woke up early and starting sketching out out the Prologue and first two chapters.

I've had similar moments before. After the birth of my daughter, for example, I wrote what I thought was the opening chapter. But finding a narrative voice and the right way to begin has been difficult. Finding an argument and acknowledging that I've finally gotten to a place where I understand Pepper's achievements have been difficult too. Fortunately, the two lecture/book tours I've done this year and last have helped me to think long and hard about Pepper, to ascertain his place, and get some sense of perspective. Now I'm on my way. The book is contracted to Scarecrow. When will it be published? I'm shooting for 2020. I like the sound of 20-20.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

One More Week

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Looking back on this year's Pepper Adams book and concert tour, with only four days remaining before Tony Faulkner flies home to England, I'd say it's been an incredible ride! All that remains is the drive from Philadelphia to Atlanta, with stops in Williamsburg VA, Chapel Hill NC, and Winston-Salem NC to do college lectures. Still, the glow remains from some truly great moments.

Regarding live performances, the first great thing on the tour was the party at my place in Tony's honor, led by pianist Kevin Bales. Walking into the Iron Post in Urbana IL a few minutes late and hearing the UI Concert Jazz Band play Mean What You Say was really memorable too. The Humber College Jazz Band (with guest soloists Pat LaBarbera and Shirantha Beddage), led by Denny Christianson, was a great midday Toronto experience! One of the tunes will be released by Humber on their next sampler.  In Montreal, the Altsys Tentet played Faulkner's charts to a rousing audience, followed two days later by the recording of the charts at the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck NJ. Two night later, trumpeter Vinnie Cutro tore it up with Diane Moser's Composers Jazz Band at Trumpets in Montclair NJ. We've videotaped a lot of the gigs, so you can look forward to seeing clips at

I especially liked our experience at Wayne State University. The really good Wayne big band played two world premieres for us of entirely unexpected Pepper Adams arrangements. I also had a large and enthusiastic audience for my Pepper lecture, including some students that came in from Windsor, Ontario. Chris Collins was a very warm host to Tony and I and there's the possibility of returning sometime down the road. I especially enjoyed walking the same halls that Pepper walked in the late 1940s.

John Vana was an equally enthusiastic and warm host to us in Macomb IL. There and elsewhere it was fun to meet young, aspiring jazz musicians who dig Pepper Adams.

Some notable food moments took place too. We stumbled on a great coffee shop in Galesburg IL that makes terrific pastries. The Ann Arbor restaurant Grange was excellent, especially their Michigan white wine list. Who knew that Leelanau wines rival Oregon and the Finger Lakes? The French bistro L'Express in Montreal was also really superb, as was Blossom, the vegan restaurant in New York City. They have a terrific and quite affordable Alsatian Pinot Blanc on their list. Zafra and Cucharamama in Hoboken NJ were as good as ever!

The tour has some forward momentum. I've been invited to speak at Temple University and Montclair State University next year, plus it's possible that Tony and I will tour again in 2015, since some Midwestern schools are interested in having us return. Driving 4,500 miles in a month are kind of grueling, so we'll look forward to some longer residencies the next time around. Thanks again to all the Kickstarter donors who made this exciting tour possible!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Canadian Tour

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Tony Faulkner and I heard some terrific performances of his big band and tentet arrangements over the last few days.  Denny Christianson (with soloists Pat LaBarbera and Shirantha Beddage) led the superb Humber College Big Band in an hour's worth of big band charts of Pepper tunes, plus "A Pair of Threes," an Alf Clausen chart that Denny and Pepper did for JustinTime Records in 1986, just before Pepper's death. The band played brilliantly and at least one of the tunes (probably Doctor Deep) will be released by Humber on their next CD.

That night the Toronto Art Orchestra performed Faulkner's Canadian premiere of Park Frederick III, Tony's wonderful suite dedicated to Pepper, with Tony conducting. We will post the performance on YouTube and at

Last night in Montreal the Altsys Tentet, led by Jennifer Bell and Bill Mahar, played a scintillating set of Faulkner tentet charts. Mahar's plunger trumpet solo on Philson brought the house down! As a result of this performance, Tony has taken my advice and he'll be reducing his Suite down to ten pieces so it's more likely to get performed and recorded.

Tony is also doing new charts for tentet featuring transcribed Pepper solos.  We're calling it Super Pepper.  It will comprise the music for Volume 9 or 10, depending on when he can get it done and when I can raise the funds.

In the meantime, Volume 6 (big band) will be released, new Bevan Manson octet charts (with string quartet) will be commissioned, and a date for solo piano (with Adam Birnbaum) will be planned.

I hope we see you at Zeb's in New York City tonight and at Trumpet's in Montclair NJ this Wednesday for the last performances of Faulkner's spectacular charts on the tour.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gary and Tony's Excellent Adventure

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

It's been an absolutely great tour so far! Two concerts at the Blue Wisp, one with the world premiere of Tony Faulkner's dedication to Pepper, took place in Cincinnati. After 33 years, it seems the club is on its last legs. Musicians are scooping up their music stands after the gig--not a good sign-- but the band sounded great, as always. Lectures and clinics in Champaign-Urbana were well received. The U. of Illinois Big Band sounded terrific playing "Mean What You Say" and Faulkner's Pepper Adams charts at the Iron Post and at Tony's clinic. Yesterday we did clinics and lectures in Macomb IL, which were enthusiastically embraced by John Cooper and John Vana; So much so that we're already discussing a return in 2015! At my lecture, Tony came upon the idea of a "Super Pepper" date, along the lines of Super Sax, for which he'd transcribe Pepper solos and arrange them for a nine piece band. Our 2015 tour would surely feature this music. We're off to Detroit, for the world premiere of Tony Faulkner's tentet charts at the Detroit Institute of Arts (Sunday, Nov 3, 1pm). We hope to see you there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In the Country with Tony

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Yesterday afternoon I picked up at the Atlanta airport UK arranger Tony Faukner.  This begins our 1-month tour of North America.  After a great meal in Decatur at 246 to kick things off, then watching a vintage 1982 video of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (with Tom Harrell, John Marshall, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Ed Neumeister), Tony went out like a light.

Today is a recovery day at my place in the Georgia countryside.  My webmaster Dan Olson is flying in from Minneapolis. Tomorrow we're having a party in Tony's honor, and I've invited a brilliant quartet, led by pianist Kevin Bales, to perform for us.  I doubt they'll play any Pepper tunes from Kevin's CD I produced; probably standards, but that's just fine.  With Kevin is Mace Hibbard on alto sax, Neal Starkey on bass, and Justin Varnes on drums.  Tony will likely sit in.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Toronto radio interview

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Tonight, from 10-12 midnight Eastern, the interview I did a few days ago with Robert Fogle regarding my work on Pepper Adams will be aired.  The segment, on CHRY radio in Toronto, will likely start at 10:30. You can stream the show at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meeting Tony Faulkner

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

In the Spring of 2012 my Pepper Adams book, Pepper Adams' Joy Road, was finally completed, after more than 25 years of research.  At that time, I was also finishing liner notes for Motema to get the 5-CD set of Pepper's music ready for release in the Fall.  The overarching strategy was to co-brand the book and CD series as "Joy Road," then release them at the same time and promote them with a book and CD tour.

I built an ambitious, four month, 40-city tour throughout the US and Canada (including one week at major clubs in New York), lecturing at colleges and book stores, and overseeing concerts of Pepper's music.  It was really a fantastic time--one of my life's highlights!  Most of the bands were small groups, but some were large aggregations that played big band arrangements of Pepper tunes that I had commissioned.  The commissions were started the preceding year in anticipation of the tour, and with an eye towards a big-band CD as Volume 6 of my Motema series.

One of the arrangers that provided big band charts is the esteemed Frank Griffith, an old friend who now lives in London. Griffith was only able to do two charts, but knew that I needed at least enough material to do a CD.  He recommended that I contact a colleague, Tony Faulkner, who lives in Leeds, England.  He thought Faulkner would enjoy participating in my project.  Griffith said, "I can not recommend him highly enough," and that was enough praise for me.

I emailed Faulkner, and he wrote back saying that he was delighted to get involved. Little did I know that he was retired and one of Thad Jones' greatest disciples.  In the ensuing 18 months, Faulkner would throw himself heart and soul into the project, doing 21 big band arrangements of Pepper's compositions; an original 20-minute suite (Park Frederick III) dedicated to Adams, built on themes from Pepper's tunes; as well as 11 tentet charts on Pepper's tunes.  For some, this is the output of an entire lifetime!  Faulkner's dedication and brilliant work was so inspiring that I produced Volume 6 entirely of his arrangements, then joined with drummer Tim Horner to produce a second CD of Faulkner's work for tentet, that will be recorded in a few weeks, live in New York and New Jersey.

This Saturday I'll go into more specifics about tunes, concerts, and the details of the upcoming tour.  Please see my post "Tony and Ernie" from 8/24/13, an amusing two-day travelogue about the recording of Volume 6.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pepper Adams Archive?

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

It occurred to me today that I wrote a will many years ago, directing my heirs to donate all of my jazz and Pepper Adams materials to the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark NJ.  Over the years much of my work has benefited from the Institute. But in a few weeks I'll be touring the Thad Jones Archives at William Paterson University.  William Paterson has an extraordinary jazz studies program that Thad started. Doesn't it make a lot of sense to establish a Pepper Adams Archive to encourage future work on Pepper at the same place that houses the Thad Jones Archive?  There's so much overlap, and so much of my Pepper materials can help Thad Jones researchers.  Pepper and Thad, like Carney and Duke, should be together.  I'll be exploring this with William Paterson and I'll report back about it. Hopefully this meeting will set in motion not just a future home for Pepper Adams materials, but a place of activity about him and his great body of work.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Best Jazz Discography

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I'm very pleased to announce that my book Pepper's Adams' Jazz Road has been awarded as the Best Discography in Jazz for 2013 by the Association of Recording Sound Collections. It's very gratifying to be recognized by my peers, that's for sure. The book is now out in paperback.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pepper Adams' 83rd Birthday

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Tomorrow (October 8) is Pepper Adams' birthday.  He would've been 83 years old.  Please play his music in celebration.  Here's the listing from my Chronology at

October 8: Highland Park MI: Park Frederick Adams III is born at 8am at Highland Park General Hospital to Park Adams II and Cleo Marie Coyle of 4695 Courville Road, Grosse Pointe Village, Michigan in suburban Detroit.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Altsys Tentet

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On Friday, November 6, 2013 at 8pm the Altsys Tentet will be performing at L'espace 64, 64 Rue Prince, Montreal. The ensemble will be performing the Canadian premiere of Tony Faulkner's new tentet charts of Pepper Adams compositions. Author Gary Carner will be signing copies of his book Pepper Adams' Joy Road.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toronto Art Orchestra

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

On Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 9pm the Toronto Art Orchestra, featuring guest soloist Pat LaBarbera, will be performing at Array Music, 155 Walnut Avenue, Toronto. General admission tickets are $25. Only 70 tickets will be sold. Doors open at 8:00. At 8:30 Pepper Adams author Gary Carner will interview arranger Tony Faulkner about his pioneering Pepper Adams work. The band will be performing the Canadian premiere of Tony Faulkner's 20-minute suite dedicated to Pepper Adams, "Park Frederick III." Rare video will be shown of Pepper Adams with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra during intermission. The author will sign copies of his book, Pepper Adams' Joy Road, after the conclusion of the concert.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 Pepper Adams Tour

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Here's our upcoming concert and lecture schedule.  We hope to see you on the road!

T, 10/29: Cincinnati  8:30pm: Contemporary Jazz Orchestra performs Tony Faulkner charts, 
                including the world premiere of "Park Frederick III," at the Blue Wisp Jazz Club.

W, 10/30: Cincinnati  4:30pm: Tony Faulkner clinic at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Corbett 
                Center 1402.

Th, 10/31: Champaign IL  7pm: University of Illinois Concert Jazz Band performs Tony Faulkner big 
                 band charts at the Iron Post.

F, 11/1: Champaign IL  1pm: Gary Carner lecture at University of Illinois, Smith Hall, Rm. 25. 

Macomb IL  5:30pm: Tony Faulkner lecture at Western Illinois University, Salee 212.

Macomb IL  7pm: Gary Carner lecture/book signing at Western Illinois University, Salee 101. 

Sat, 11/2: Off
Su, 11/3: Detroit  1pm: Scott Gwinnell Dectet at the Institute of Arts, recorded for NPR broadcast. 
                World premiere of Tony Faulkner tentet charts. 

M, 11/4: Off
T, 11/5: Detroit  12:30pm: Tony Faulkner arranging clinic at Wayne State University.
Detroit   6pm: Gary Carner lecture at Wayne State University.

W, 11/6: Toronto  12:15pm: Humber College Jazz Band performs the arrangements of Tony 
                Faulkner, featuring Pat LaBarbera and Shirantha Beddage.

Toronto  8:30pm: Toronto Art Orchestra performs big band charts of Tony Faulkner at Array 
                Music, including the Canadian premiere of "Park Frederick III."

Th, 11/7: Toronto  11:30am: Tony Faulkner arranging clinic at Humber College.

Toronto  11:30am: Gary Carner lecture at Humber College.
F, 11/8: Montreal  Gary Carner lecture and Tony Faulkner arranging clinic at Concordia 
                University, time to be announced.

Montreal  8pm: Altsys Tentet performs Canadian premiere of Tony Faulkner tentet charts at 
                L'espace 64.
Sat, 11/9: New York  8pm: Tim Horner-Ron Horton Tentet recording live CD of Tony Faulkner 
                 arrangements at Zeb's. Emceed by Dan Morgenstern.

Su, 11/10: Teaneck NJ  4:30pm: Tim Horner-Ron Horton Tentet recording live CD of Tony Faulkner 
                  arrangements at Puffin Foundation.

M, 11/11: Paramus NJ  11am: Gary Carner lecture at Bergen Community College.
T, 11/12: Off
W, 11/13: Montclair NJ  8pm: Diane Moser Big Band performs Tony Faulkner arrangements at 
                Trumpets, including "Park Frederick III."

Th, 11/14:  To be determined

F, 11/15: Princeton NJ  11am: WPRB radio show with Jerry Gordon.

Sat, 11/16: To be determined

Su, 11/17: To be determined

M, 11/18: To be determined

T, 11/19: Williamsburg VA  6:30pm: Tony Faulkner-Gary Carner clinic at College of William & Mary, 
                Ewell Hall, 207.

W, 11/20: Chapel Hill NC  1pm: Tony Faulkner-Gary Carner clinic at University of North Carolina.

Winston-Salem NC  3:30pm: Tony Faulkner-Gary Carner clinic at University of North 
                Carolina School of the Arts.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Played Twice (Part Three)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Peter Leitch's great autobiography, Off the Books, concludes with a lengthy chapter about his time living in New York City. Leitch moved there from Toronto in 1982 and found it to be a liberating experience. "New York," Leitch wrote, "was the city of my dreams." Leitch loved the dirt and grime, the energy, and above all, the music scene.  

Leitch and Sylvia Levine moved to East Thirteenth Street, between First and Second Avenue. Leitch's description of the neighborhood is terrific and cinematic in scope:

The streetscape was one of jacked-up cars, baseball on televisions and 
music on radios connected to lamp posts, and people playing conga
drums on the sidewalk. People on the street communicated with their
families and neighbors by shouting back and forth from the street to 
their apartment windows. In summer the fire hydrant across the street
was always open, providing cooling refreshment for kids and dogs.
Although it is illegal to keep farm animals within the city of New York,
some mornings we would awaken to the unmistakable sound of a
rooster crowing somewhere in the neighborhood.

The embodiment of life on Thirteenth Street was Tony, a car mechanic. Tony, the unofficial Mayor of Thirteenth Street, had the cops and town officials in his pocket.

Leitch describes 1982 New York City in rich detail, with an historian's eye for context and nuance. He shapes his discussion with fascinating asides about earlier and later New York, such as the establishment of the city's grid system in 1811, the unsuccessful attempt by Mayor Fernando Wood to have New York succeed from the Union in the 1850s, the fact that there were as yet no chains stores of any kind in the city when he first moved there, and that pre-9/11 New York City "didn't even seem like a part of the United States."

In 1982, New York was a city still rebounding from the financial crisis of the 1970s, with streets riddled with potholes and littered with car parts and abandoned vehicles. This chaotic landscape appealed to Leitch's anarchic spirit. In New York City everything goes, everyone is hustling to get ahead, "the rules were 'on hold,'" yet, somehow, it all worked. As Leitch summarized,

New York City is first and foremost a resource, in fact a collection of
resources. The very best of everything, from music to art to technology,
is available, and often quite cheaply. There is a kind of energy, an edge,
that one doesn't find anywhere else. . . . The city was an entity unto
itself, a sort of free trade interzone. And much of the trade was in ideas.  
There were improvisational aspects to living here, especially as an
illegal alien, that were analogous to the music and appealed to me.

In this new and exciting environment, though virtually broke, Leitch began to get established as a musician. His first gig was with Pepper Adams at an Edgewater, New Jersey club, Struggles. (Peter gave me his cassette copy of this trio gig many years ago.) Soon afterwards, Leitch heard John Hicks and Ray Drummond play at Bradley's and he was deeply moved by their consummate artistry. Bradley's was one of a handful of Manhattan clubs where you could listen to small groups without paying a cover charge.

In his first months in New York, the author was also spending a lot of time with Robert Walker, who was assembling his first book of photography for publication. Leitch was just beginning to formulate his penchant for photojournalism, and Walker's library was a great resource.

In 1983 Leitch toured with organist Jack McDuff, then received a grant from the Canadian government to write and record music for octet, assisted by a letter of recommendation by Oscar Peterson. He also joined a group, the New York Jazz Guitar Ensemble, that performed transcriptions and reharmonizations of Wes Montgomery solos. The group recorded for Choice Records in 1986.

It was a dizzying time for Leitch. Besides gigging and writing record reviews for Cadence, he was practicing as much as six hours a day:  

There were so many fantastic musicians in the city doing so many
different things. I decided that I needed to become a better guitar 
player. New York was a whole other esthetic and required an
adjustment. Things that sounded great in your hometown didn't
sound as good here. You would walk down the street in New York
and hear people playing for spare change who were playing so
much music that they'd send you right back into the woodshed.

In 1984 Leitch recorded his first date as a leader in the States with New York musicians. The project began as a Thelonious Monk dedication and originally was going to be self-produced. Ultimately, Uptown Records signed Leitch and the recording date featured several Monk tunes as well as some standards and originals. Exhilaration--a title exemplifying Leitch's feelings about life in his new-found hometown--featured the all-star band of Pepper Adams, John Hicks, Ray Drummond, and Billy Hart. About Pepper Adams, Leitch wrote,

I was in awe of him. He was amazing. He knew so much about so
many things--all areas of music, visual art, literature, you name it--
and he could carry on an intelligent, informed conversation about 
any of it. And Pepper was a hockey enthusiast, frequently attending
games at Madison Square Garden. He was a staunch New York
Rangers fan.

Despite liking "the outlaw aspect" of being an illegal alien, Leitch was still gigging in Canada and it took a lot of time planning on how to successfully cross the border. After marrying Sylvia in 1985, Leitch initiated immigration proceedings, ultimately getting his Green Card in 1987.

Over the years, in some interviews I've conducted, a number of musicians have spoken about Pepper Adams having been the recipient of racism, that it adversely effected his career. Not once has anything concrete been offered by any interviewees, but the implication has always consistently been that he was marginalized for playing with black bands. In Off the Books, finally I've learned of something specific, as in this description of reverse racism in jazz:
I've never been able to fathom this, but it's OK to have one white person
in a black band (in fact, people like it), or one black person in a white
band, as long as it isn't the leader. Apparently, Buddy DeFranco, Pepper
Adams, and several other white bandleaders who hired black sidemen
experienced this phenomenon to some degree. In fact, on a couple of
Pepper's first albums the company wouldn't put his picture on the cover
because he was white!

A quick look at Pepper's first six released albums as a leader indeed shows this to be true in half the cases. No cover photograph of Pepper exists on The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams (Savoy) or on Motor City Scene (Bethlehem), and the two thumbnail photos with Pepper on them on the cover to 10 to 4 at the Five Spot are somewhat ambiguous. Not knowing Pepper's race, and the lack of putting photographs of him on his own record covers, might be one reason why jazz fans were surprised he was white when he first traveled to Europe in 1964 and later. More than that, of course, was Pepper's style of playing--hardly in the mold of Gerry Mulligan.

Leitch is equally hard-hitting when it comes to jazz critics, something that Pepper Adams was most vehement about:

A lot of what was written about jazz in publications like the New
York Times in the '90s was obviously bought and paid for by the
big record companies. You could see these "jazz journalists"
appear at major label record dates like cockroaches coming out
of the walls, anywhere there was a chance of a free drink, or a
hot dog or a few crumbs of free food. It gave new meaning to 
John Updike's definition of critics: "pigs at the pastry cart." 

Echoing something I once heard Ron Carter tell me and my fellow classmates in a jazz history class at City College of New York, Leitch continues: 

I have always felt that musicians should take their own poll of
critics and journalists. You could give out awards in various 
categories such as "Most consistent misuse of musical
terminology" and "Best regurgitation of a major label press
release" and "Best autobiographical essay in the guise of a 
review," etc. The awards themselves could consist of dog shit
or broken glass. Most musicians, black and white, feel this
way, although very few of them will admit it publicly.

Although the writing about music has become somewhat more democratic with the advent of the internet, I'd certainly be very interested to hear what musicians think of today's jazz critics, if they have the courage.

Leitch is also very critical of the "Young Lion" movement of the 1990s and how corporate interests changed things:

Since the early '90s, due largely to the emergence of Wynton Marsalis
as a major figure, both as a great trumpet player and as a symbol of
the "Young, Gifted and Black" syndrome, the major corporate record
labels had been trying to sell jazz. But instead of selling the music and
its rich legacy of in-the-moment creativity, they decided it was easier 
to sell an image. They bought all the press money could buy, and 
started signing and recording a lot of very young musicians, most of
them black, all of them under the age of twenty-five, and dressed them
in very expensive suits. . . . Some of these kids could play, but most
were in their early or transitional stages of development, and were 
about as ready to make a major label jazz record as I am to fly to
Mars. Maybe not as ready! These records, made with huge budgets
(for jazz) and produced for the most part by people with degrees in
marketing rather than a knowledge of the music, were mostly terrible--
they mostly didn't sell. When they didn't sell the expected number of 
units, the CDs were deleted from the catalog, returned to the company
and actually physically destroyed. This was done so that these items
would not take up space in the record stores that could be used for new
releases. So much for continuity and back catalog. I called this 
"disposable diaper music."

Throughout the memoir, Leitch is unflinchingly honest with himself too, and this makes him even more of a real and sympathetic figure. He discusses his bouts with depression, panic attacks that marked a "crisis of confidence" after 50 years as a performer, and an extra-marital affair and its implications. 

One such theme woven throughout the narrative is Leitch's disinterest with material possessions. When his Gibson L5 guitar slipped out of his hands, for example, and smashed to the floor, Leitch was unmoved:

Time to let go. . . I have never had any kind of romantic attachment 
to guitars. In fact I never really liked them at all. They were simply a
tool, and if they worked well, were fairly comfortable to play, and 
suited the musical purpose at hand, that was enough. Most good
guitars are overpriced anyway. I felt the same way about cameras
later. I remember playing someone's Benedetto guitar. What a great
instrument! But not thirty or forty thousand dollars great.

The last fifty pages of the book charts Leitch's ascent as a photographer, beginning in about 1996. This was somewhat of a healthy reaction to the change in the music business, that was becoming more monopolistic, and fostered the growth of a handful of "stars" that could be surrounded with promotional dollars--subsidizing tours and even club owners.  It was hard for musicians of Leitch's generation to get work in this climate. 

Leitch was mentored by his close friend Robert Walker and, by 2000, he began taking photographic field trips to the Deep South, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. A 1996 Museum of Modern Art retrospective of the work of Roy DeCarava made a tremendous impression on Leitch. A beautiful passage in the book, comparing music and photography, is written on Page 149-50, where the author discusses treble, bass, mid-range, melody, rhythm, form, and other musical concepts.

Part of the appeal of reading Off the Books is learning of the ascent of Leitch. In a way, the book serves as a romance, because Leitch triumphs over his environment and life circumstances to become a major player. As I've always said about Pepper Adams, one of the ways you can tell a player is great is by the company he keeps, and Leitch is no exception. What might seem at times as a travelogue or discographical essay sustains interest because of the musicians with whom Leitch worked. Apart from Adams, Hicks, Drummond, and Hart, Leitch's gigs and recordings discussed in the book are a Who's Who roster of some of the greatest players in jazz: Gary Bartz, Mickey Roker, Jesper Lundgaard, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Kirk Lightsey, Woody Shaw, Jed Levy, Lewis Nash, Sonny Fortune, Bobby Watson, James Williams, Neil Swainson, Al Grey, Buddy Tate, Jimmy Forrest, Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Phil Nimmons, Don Thompson, Oscar Peterson, Jaki Byard, Sonny Fortune, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Renee Rosnes, Rufus Reid, Rein de Graaff, Lew Tabackin, Mulgrew Miller, Billy Higgins, Terry Clarke, and Freddie Waits.

Off the Books is a work of tremendous depth. Please read it and pass the word. What a great book!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Played Twice (Part Two)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Before I resume my review of Peter Leitch's excellent memoir, Off the Books, I want to pause to remind Pepper Adams devotees that this Tuesday, September 10, marks the 27th anniversary of Pepper Adams' death. At my home, it's a day of commemoration. I light a candle in his honor and play his music.

Now to guitarist Peter Leitch, who is still very much with us, playing his New York City gig at Walkers every Sunday night. 

The short middle chapter of Leitch's terrific three-part memoir discusses 1977-1982, his six-year experience living in Toronto. It functions as an intermezzo between the much larger chapters about his time in Montreal and New York. Canadian born Leitch, a keen cultural historian, felt that 1977 was a logical time to leave Montreal for Toronto. 

First, the vibrant Montreal music scene was "on its last legs." Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau had been elected in 1954 on an anti-corruption platform, after coming to power as a prosecutor of organized crime (much like New York's mayor Rudolf Guiliani years later). Drapeau's reign (from 1954-1986) was notable for his mission of ridding Montreal of political corruption. Much like Chicago or Kansas City in earlier times, it was the synergy between local government, police, and organized crime that had kept jazz thriving in Montreal. Drapeau's regime slowly put an end to that.

As Leitch also points out, another seismic economic shift was already taking place that was effecting Montreal as a world class city. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in the late 1950s, allowing raw materials and cargo of every description--that once could only be delivered to Montreal--to move past the city to other western destinations in the Great Lakes.  "This had a devastating effect on industry and commerce," writes Leitch. 

Further eroding the city's economic base was the Quebecois separatist movement. In the 1970s many English speaking Canadians left Montreal due to repressive laws favoring French as the dominant language, and amidst the general hoopla about transforming Quebec to a sovereign country, separate from Canada. With the political uncertainty and exodus of English-speaking residents was a huge shift of assets out of Quebec banks. Combined with the $1 billion cost overrun from Expo '67 that took the city 30 years to pay off, Montreal was in an economic tailspin that, according to Leitch, has never been overcome. 

Apart from the economic and political changes, Leitch was also frustrated with the lack of musicianship. For one thing, in 1977 Montreal drummers had no sense of the jazz tradition. To make matters worse, writes Leitch, "it was hard to find a rhythm section that could play four even quarter notes in a row. If you tried to do anything subtle with the phrasing--back phrase or do anything with triplets, they just didn't get it." Not that this didn't happen in Toronto, but some of his friends, such as high school buddy Robert Walker, had already moved west to Toronto, and it was time for Leitch to advance as a player.  

Toronto was a culture shock for Leitch: "Coming from a large cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and wide-open city with a bohemian spirit, I was surprised at the small town mentality and the puritan strain that seemed to run through everything." Leitch was arrested for speeding, going 36 in a 35-mile zone with Quebec license plates. The police later issued him a summons for not mowing his lawn. Unlike Montreal, buying alcohol was highly controlled by the state and getting a good meal in restaurants was almost impossible.

Not only did Toronto seem backwards, but it was a more expensive city to live in than Montreal. And, despite the golden age of Montreal's jazz scene being a thing of the past, there was still far more opportunities to play live music there than in Toronto. Nevertheless, Leitch broke into the local scene. He met bassist Neil Swainson and they worked together in tenor saxophonist Don Thompson's group.  

It was Thompson (know as D.T.) that encouraged Leitch to sit in at Bourbon Street with the Al Grey-Jimmy Forrest-Don Patterson ensemble, which led to tours of the U.S.:

I was learning so much with this group. These people were masters of the
music, and masters of the road. Al and Jimmy had been with the Basie
band for years. . . . I was learning about playing good "time" at some killer
slow tempos, blending, pacing, how to build a solo, what not to play, how
to lead a band, even how to dress on the bandstand and pay attention to
one's shoes. This was the true university of jazz.

Upon his return to Toronto, despite some silly Dixieland gigs that paid the bills, Leitch started to perform with some of the better musicians, such as Phil Nimmons and Rob McConnell. He also got his first week-long gig as a leader at George's Spaghetti House, then made a recording with Oscar Peterson, subbing for Ed Bickert. Leitch worked with some of the top players coming through town too--Clark Terry (with drummer Terry Clarke), Kenny Wheeler--and he was getting gigs out of town with Milt Jackson and touring with his own group.  

After meeting his future wife, Sylvia, in 1981 Leitch recorded Jump Street, his first date as a leader, with George McFetridge, Neil Swainson, and Terry Clarke. Before it was released, Leitch took a tour of England, Russia, and Lithuania with tenor saxophonist Fraser McPherson. But, after recording a duo date with McFetridge in 1982, Leitch was weary of the Toronto scene. His standing on the scene was hardly helped by dumping a beer on jazz critic Mark Miller, then trying to get him fired from the Globe and Mail by distributing a petition among musicians.

I had been thinking of making a move anyway, really since the tours with
Al Grey. I felt as if I wasn't developing musically the way I wanted to. I
knew there was a whole other level out there that I had to try to get to, not
just learn to play it, but try to get to the very essence of the music. In 
Canada, the idea of playing jazz full time, actually making a living, was just
inconceivable, but I knew that somewhere people were doing it. I was
thinking about New York.

With the previous move from Montreal to Toronto, Robert Walker had preceded Leitch. Now, Walker had moved to New York. At one of Leitch's last gigs in Toronto he met Pepper Adams, who told Leitch he liked his playing. Leitch told him he was soon moving to New York and Pepper asked Leitch to contact him when he arrived. Leitch's first gig in New York was with Pepper, but more about that and Leitch's final section next week.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Played Twice (Part One)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

How many times do you come across a book so good you want to read it twice?  That perhaps best describes my feeling about Peter Leitch's dazzling new memoir, Off the Books (Vehicule Press). It's simply the best jazz book I've read in many years, and it's been a joy to "play" it again.

I've known Peter since his 1984 Uptown date with Pepper Adams, and I've listened to his recordings many times over the years. Apart from interviewing him about Pepper many years ago, hearing him at a very memorable late-1980s gig at the Willow in Cambridge MA with pianist James Williams, and running into him once at the New York jazz club Visiones, and I hadn't spoken with him in a very long time until last year's Pepper Adams Week in New York City. During that amazing series of concerts promoted by Motema records, I took a bunch of friends to Walker's to hear him play a few Pepper tunes. Thankfully, in a way, reading his autobiography makes up for not staying in touch.

I've always admired Leitch as a player. His A Special Rapport date on Reservoir, to name one recording, is sensational!  But reading his autobiography gives you a whole different sense of this wide-ranging, very important artist. Besides being a great musician, who has performed with many of jazz's most influential players, Leitch is also an accomplished photographer, a keen observer of the world, and a great writer. Leitch's book is beautifully crafted, gripping, a real page-turner.  His observations about jazz, life, politics, drugs, the music scene, and, in some ways most importantly, about himself, are sincere, direct, funny, touching, poignant.

The book is divided into three sections: "Montreal in the 1950s and 60s," "Toronto 1977-1982," and "New York 1982-."  I will discuss each part individually over the next three weeks to, in my way, give tribute to Leitch's very important contribution to jazz history and life writing. 

Generally speaking, chronologically presented biographies or autobiographies are the norm, and, as such, quite cliched. But in Leitch's memoir, the format works well for three reasons.  First, the content is so fresh and alive, and the prose is wrought in such a concise, forward-moving style, that the format becomes meaningless.  Second, helping the narrative are the author's flash-backs and flash-forwards to themes throughout the book, unifying it in that fashion. Third, the three sections of the book correspond to major shifts in Leitch's life, so they make sense as an overarching organizing principle.

Part One of the book is a discussion of the author's first 23 or so years based in Montreal.  The author immediately emerges as a sympathetic figure, as he establishes the contradiction of being an English-speaking Protestant in a French-speaking, Roman Catholic town. This dichotomy, beautifully developed like one of his solos, serves as  a metaphor for his alienation in working class Point-aux-Trembles, the refinery area of Montreal's east-end.  

Although Leitch learned to speak French by osmosis, his early education took place in English-speaking schools, and by high school, he was bussed downtown for two years--a welcome relief from the neighborhood.  As an outsider, he coped, despite being bullied by gangs. He discovered his nihilism quite young, and this reinforced his detachment, as well as his growing confidence and individuality, amid the pressure of not conforming to the prevailing culture.

Some poignant stories about his family are included, and perhaps it was decided that, in a 200-page memoir, less is more. Still, I was left wanting to know more about his parents. The lack of information about them only reinforces Leitch's sense of alienation, wandering the city's underbelly, making sense of things on his own.

Always the photographer-observer, really memorable are Leitch's descriptions of his neighborhood: multi-colored industrial waste running down the street on his walk home from school; smokestacks burning gases "like religious icons;" sidewalks "caked with thick ice," Catholic priests in long black robes spitting on the sidewalk; the hegemonic, gray stone, mental institution with the red watchtower and chain link fence.

Just as poignantly, Leitch teases the reader on Page One with a hint of his future heroin habit that the author picks up midway in the chapter. But first, Leitch writes about his early exposure to jazz and how difficult it was learning how to play jazz in this milieu.  A few record stores had the current Prestige, Riverside, and Blue Note releases, but there weren't many method books available, and his neighborhood prepared kids to work in the factories, not as aspiring jazz musicians. Leitch, self-taught, spent hours transcribing solos, often slowing them down an octave to 16 rpm, and if necessary, putting coins on the tonearm to slow them down even further.  

Fortunately, the Montreal of his youth was still on the "jazz circuit," so all the major players came through and Leitch played hooky and heard as many as possible.  Implied is that Montreal was a cosmopolitan, open city that, unlike Detroit, for example, didn't restrict minors from visiting jazz clubs. Leitch befriended the legendary guitarist Rene Thomas, who lived in Montreal from 1957-1962, and he studied with trumpeter Herbie Spanier.  From there he met aspiring players like himself and other jazz elders living in town.

Leitch's descriptions of his early gigs, relationships, and growth as a Canadian musician is an important contribution to the jazz history of Montreal--really fascinating to read and loaded with amusing anecdotes. Importantly, Leitch writes about the black jazz scene that was centered around Mountain and St. Antoine streets.  Here, Leitch heard the influential guitarists Nelson Symonds and Sonny Greenwich, among many other great musicians.

The second half of Part One discusses Leitch's use of heroin, begun in the mid-1960s. Leitch was a user until 1973, when he relocated to Quebec City for two years to work full-time for a CBC TV talk/variety show.  Leitch describes this aspect of his life in vivid detail, focusing on how he coped with the habit while growing as a musician. His first wife was also a user.

During the mid-60s, Leitch noticed the difference between how many blacks and whites approached jazz:

Among the black musicians, even the not-so-good ones, there was a
sense of the music being a matter of life and death, which it was. With
some of these old guys if you played the wrong chords, you might get
a trumpet blown in your ear (or worse!). On the bandstand it was
serious.  With a lot of the white musicians, even though they might be
really proficient musicians doing a really great job, you sometimes got
the feeling that they were thinking about their mortgages, or dinner, or
something else. 

I pre-ordered Off the Books because I knew that the author would discuss Pepper Adams. I wasn't expecting to read the book, but I wanted the Adams references for my work on my Pepper Adams biography.  Quite frankly, with a day job, I only have time to seek out books that help me understand Pepper's life, because time is so limited, and I'm trying to work my way through a Pepper Adams screenplay, then get to the full-length biography. Leitch's memoir was impossible to put down, and it has given me several important things that help me understand Adams' life in greater detail:

1. The description of Montreal's Stanley Street Beat Scene in the late 1950s- early 1960s--surely an important contribution to jazz scholarship in its own right--gives me a sense of that place where Pepper performed, mostly notably at the Little Vienna.

2. Pepper denied using heroin, kind of the way Bill Clinton denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky.  Pepper did, however, have a few experiences in New York shooting up, and Leitch's in-depth portrayal of the physical and emotional effects of heroin help me understand why Montreal pianist Keith White talked about heroin and the way it leads to insight.

3. Playing unusual gigs, like strip clubs puts into relief the very strange gigs Pepper worked too, when coming up, including gigs at strip clubs with Roland Hanna in New York City, soon after they arrived in the mid-50s.

4. As I expected, specific descriptions of Pepper are very memorable, especially the passage that Leitch "was in awe of him" and why that was so.  More about that next week in my second installment of this review.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tony and Ernie

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

This past Thursday I drove into midtown Manhattan in the rain to get Tony and Ernie.  British arranger Tony Faulkner and British percussionist Ernie Jackson were waiting for me at 2:30 outside their hotel on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street.

The New York theater district was abuzz with traffic and construction.  Summer tourists were dodging the downpour.  I was steering away from taxi cabs and amped-up, inattentive drivers. Uptown, the Yankees game was piling up traffic, and, across the Hudson, the Barclays golf tournament was adding another dimension to the congested urban landscape.

Tony and Ernie had flown into JFK from England on Wednesday. Their visit was scheduled to coincide with the mixing session I'd booked at Skyline Studios in Warren, New Jersey.  It also kicked off their two-week vacation in New York.  After more than a year of working together via email and Skype, this was Tony and my first time together, and we had considerable work to do, mixing our big band date.

Back over the George Washington Bridge, the rain had slackened and the sun was beginning to peek out from behind the clouds. The three of us drove to drummer Tim Horner's house in nearby Teaneck, New Jersey, where we met Tim and trumpeter Ron Horton.  Along the way, it was interesting to hear Tony and Ernie comment about the area's jazz history, things I take for granted, such as the road sign for "Hackensack."  

The reason for the meeting was to give Tony a chance to meet Tim and Ron and discuss our upcoming live recording. Over wine, Kentucky bourbon, and snacks, we explored the various aspects of the project.  Tim is one of the nicest people I've met in the industry, so it's always a pleasure being involved with him in any capacity.  

Our live tentet recording (Volume 7 of my Motema series) will be taped on November 9-10 in New York and Teaneck.  The esteemed jazz historian Dan Morgenstern will function as emcee.  Tony is writing new Pepper charts for the ensemble, though some will be adapted from his unrecorded big band Pepper arrangements.  Apart from the co-leaders, the band will include multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, bassist Martin Wind, and guitarist John Hart.

At about 5:30, Tony, Ernie, and I left Tim's place and drove to Little Falls, New Jersey to meet pianist and bandleader Diane Moser.  Diane had recommended a small Italian bistro, Bivio, that's owned by alto saxophonist Tommy Colao. Before Diane arrived for dinner, I took Tony and Ernie to a local pub, so they could get a pint of their beloved Guinness.  (Not deliberately a contrarian, I got the last bottle of my beloved Leffe.)  

On our walk to and from the pub, I noticed several Art Deco structures in town, one a small diner with a zig-zag roofline motif that had been converted into a pizzeria,  It was one of four pizzerias we saw on our short walk.  We also walked by a Chevrolet dealer.  This is the way it used to be in New Jersey in the sixties, before more and more car dealerships were built near malls or on major highways.

We all met Diane for the first time and she was an engaging dinner companion. Our meeting gave us a chance to discuss the November 13 concert of Tony's big band Pepper charts that's taking place at Trumpets in Montclair, New Jersey.  Since Diane is a regular at Bivio, she ordered for us.  The food at Bivio is superb and we had a great time!  Please support Tommy, if you're in the area.

After dinner, I drove Tony and Ernie to our hotel in Parsippany, formerly the "Sheraton Tara." The design of the building is modeled after an English castle.  Tony and Ernie were amused, since they know a thing or two about castles.  I left Tony and Ernie at the bar, with their pints of Guinness and a newfound compatriot from England.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On the Road

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I'm in coastal Maine, licking my wounds after the grueling Kickstarter campign to raise funds for the big band CD of Pepper Adams compositions.  The funds settled on Sunday, 12 August--just about a week ago--and it almost seems a distant memory.  That's the point of a vacation, of course.  Get some distance and heal the mind and body.  That's been the agenda.

I've been with my family in Boston, Quebec, and Southern Maine, enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery, eating some great food, and taking a break from all things related to Pepper Adams.  But next week, on my long drive back home to Atlanta, I'm back at it.  I'll be at long last meeting Tony Faulkner in New York City and we'll be mixing his big band arrangements for our forthoming CD.  

Tony and I have had many Skype calls, and we've exchanged countless emails, since we began working together over a year ago.  We're already pretty good buddies, but it will be great to be with him in the U.S, especially in anticipation of our month-long Pepper Adams tour, starting in late October.  Here's our Fall schedule thus far.  We hope to see you on the road:

T, 10/29: Cincinnati  8:30: Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at the Blue Wisp.

W, 10/30: Cincinnati  4:30: Faulkner clinic at Cincinnati Conservatory.  

Th, 10/31: Champaign IL   8:00?: Concert Jazz Band at the Iron Post.

F, 11/1: Champaign IL  1-2: Carner lecture at U of Illinois, Smith Hall, Rm. 25.  
Macomb IL  5:30-6:30: Faulkner clinic at Western Illinois U, Salee 212; 
7-9: Carner lecture/book signing at Western Illinois U, Salee 101.  

Sat, 11/2: Travel day.

Su, 11/3: Detroit   1-4: Scott Gwinnell Dectet at the Institute of Arts.  NPR taping.

M, 11/4:  Off

T, 11/5: Detroit  12:30-2:40: Faulkner arranging clinic at Wayne State University.
6-8: Carner lecture at Wayne State.  

W, 11/6: Toronto   12:15-1:15: Humber College Jazz Band concert.

Th, 11/7: Toronto  11:30-1: Faulkner arranging clinic at Humber; 
11:30-1: Carner lecture at Humber. 
F, 11/8: Montreal   Afternoon: Concordia University lecture and arranging clinic.
Sat, 11/9: New York   8-11: Tim Horner-Ron Horton live Tentet recording at Zeb's, 223 West 28 St.

Su, 11/10: Teaneck NJ  4:30-7:30: Tim Horner-Ron Horton Tentet recording at Puffin Foundation.

M, 11/11: TBD
T, 11/12: TBD

W, 11/13: TBD

Th, 11/14: TBD

F, 11/15: Princeton  11-1: WPRB radio show with Jerry Gordon.
Sat, 11/16: TBD

Su, 11/17: TBD

M, 11/18: TBD

T, 11/19: Williamsburg VA    6:30-8: Faulkner-Carner clinic at College of William & Mary.

W, 11/20: TBD

Th, 11/21: TBD

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One More Day

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

About 2 hours remain in the Kickstarter campaign to fund my new Pepper Adams CD.  Just after I posted last week, much to my delight, I exceeded the $7,000 funding goal.  Again, many thanks to the 100 donors who believe in the project and believe in Pepper Adams.

Last week I was somewhat delirious from the fatigue of the fundraising campaign. Plus, I was having trouble with my iPad browser and the way it interfaces with Blogspot and Google.  I'm taking steps to correct that, so thanks for your patience.

The great Thad Jones disciple, arranger Tony Faulkner, is working furiously on finishing a new set of tenet charts that he can bring with him to New York City in a few weeks to show drummer Tim Horner.  Tim is co-leading the band (with trumpeter Ron Horton) that is recording live at Zeb's in New York on 9 November and again on 10 November at the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck, New Jersey.  This recording, produced by Tim Horner, will be Volume 7 of my Complete Works of Pepper Adams series of recordings for Motema.  I hope some of you can make the shows!  It's great to have an knowledgeable audience!

We're premiering the tentet material in Detroit, with Scott Gwinnell's Dectet, at a concert at the Institute of Arts on 2 November.  The instrumentation, replacing guitar with another trombone, is only slightly different from what we are recording a week later.  I'm pleased that the Detroit concert is being recording for broadcast on NPR.  I'll be sure to post the details, once known.

I'm meeting Tony Faulkner in New York on 22 August. He's flying in from England for two weeks.  After meeting Tim for coffee, and the bandleader Diane Moser for pizza, the following day we're driving out to Skyline Studios in Warren, New Jersey, about an hour west of Manhattan, to mix and master the big band date.  We'll be working with the very accomplished engineer Paul Wickliffe, who recorded the Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard, among his many accomplishments.  Wickliffe feels that we may have a Grammy contender.  Because of his vast experience, Tony and I are following his lead on how to make the best possible CD to achieve a nomination.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I woke up this morning, as I have every morning for the last three weeks, hoping to see a Kickstarter pledge posted from somewhere east of here.  With just a little more than seven days left in my challenging Kickstarter campaign (to raise enough capital to produce my new big band CD of Pepper Adams compositions), nothing came in overnight.  With 94% of the campaign funded, I sit and wait; my celebration postponed yet another day?

Gary Smulyan, Neil Tesser, and others have told me that this is to be expected.  The normal rhythm for crowdfunding is that they successfully conclude in the last week of the campaign.  I had emailed Tesser several weeks ago to ask him if he would post an email to his readers in Chicago.  My CD features an all-Illinois based band, so it made sense to get local fans informed, with the hope that some might pledge their support.  He told me to wait.  In his experience, things always happen in the last week.  Smulyan said much the same thing to me a few days ago.

So I wait.  I wasn't too surprised when I looked at my Kickstarter page this morning--while trying to focus after a reasonably good night's sleep--because Saturdays in the summer haven't been good days for receiving pledges.  Sundays have been better.  Based on my experience, I'd deduce that no one should even bother with Kickstarter in the summer.  People are just too distracted.  Steve Cerra told me that a few weeks ago.

Noal Cohen was the first to articulate what I was starting to believe: that success on Kickstarter is predicated on an extensive social media network.  Kickstarter, you could say, is a young person's game.  I'm neither young, nor flush with "friends."  Neither are many of my colleagues, and some of Pepper's generation barely use a computer.  I'm a baby boomer, someone who grew up with LPs, the Beatles and the blues, not a laptop and gangsta rap.  For me, my first foray into Kickstarter was an intense game of catch-up.  I now understand Facebook and Twitter much better, but I wait.  7 more days.

94% in school was a pretty good grade. It was something you could be proud of, knowing that you did a good job.  94% at Kickstarter has the same resonance, because, like a 94 grade, it means a lot of work has paid off.  But anything less than 100% in Kickstarter is a failing grade, because you lose all the money.  So I wait.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Pepper Adams Big Band CD Kickstarter Campaign

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Does anyone know who's responsible for YouTube's Pepper Adams Channel?  Contrary to popular belief, it isn't me!  If that person would come forward, I'd like to post an announcement there about the Pepper Adams big band Kickstarter campaign (now in it's final two weeks), to reach it's substantial subscriber base.

Speaking of Kickstarter, we're now 52% funded, with 15 days to go.  It's been a nail-biter, each day with it's emotional ups and downs.  Somehow, I've managed to aggregate just barely enough family, friends, musicians, and Pepper fan donations to keep pace with the grinding daily need for $234 of pledges a day.  

We started off well, but then hit a wall, and donations were flat for almost a week, leading me to alternating feelings of hopefulness and despair.  I started thinking of the campaign in medical terms, such as "flat-lining" and "life support."  Then, suddenly, on Friday, July 20, a bunch of baritone saxophonists started pledging, the entire campaign was lifted, and we've had wind at our sails ever since.  

That's not to gloat, or to say that this is done.  Every day continues to be an emotional roller-coaster.  As I write this, no new donations have come in.  Usually by 4 or 5pm, on a less than adequate funding day, I'm thinking about red wine and when I'll pour my first glass.  That hasn't happened yet today, but my bottle of Super Tuscan, opened and in the fridge, comes out shortly to get near room temperature, just in case.

Some very notable people have contributed thus far, and I'm very gratified!  Pepper's close friend Lew Tabackin has donated.  So has pianist/writer/broadcaster Ben Sidran, who conducted probably the greatest interview with Pepper that was ever done in Pepper's lifetime.  You can listen to it in the Interviews section of  Pepper was very ill at the time.  It was only ten months before his death. 

Thanks to Ben, the great bassist Richard Davis has also contributed.  Talk about coming full circle! Arranger Tony Faulkner is one of Thad Jones' greatest disciples, and Richard Davis was, with Mel Lewis and Roland Hanna, part of that spectacular Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra rhythm section.  The charts that Faulkner wrote for our new CD (Volume 6 in Motema's Pepper Adams Complete Compositions series) surrounds Pepper's music with Thad Jones phrases and textures, and now Richard Davis is supporting the release of that work with his pledge?  

Faulkner is stunned, particularly because one of Davis' pledge awards is to receive an arranging lesson from him.  Tony might not feel worthy, but I told him, "This is your moment.  Enjoy the next few months."  I was referring to more than the Skype tutorial with Davis.  I was thinking mostly of the upcoming book-CD-concert tour--with world premieres, a live recording, an NPR broadcast, and clinics and lectures--that he and I are doing throughout the U.S. and Canada, starting in late October.  We hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sixth CD

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I'm very excited to let you know that I've recorded a fantastic new CD of big band charts of Pepper Adams compositions for Motema Music.  This is the sixth CD in my series, and it's the first recording of its kind ever undertaken.  It will be released in January, 2014.  It wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the esteemed British arranger Tony Faulkner, who wrote all the charts.  Faulkner is little known outside of England, but this project should change that in a hurry.

Ten superb performances that were done over Easter weekend by the Concert Jazz Band at the University of Illinois, with solos by their superb faculty.  I need to raise $7,000 to pay the arranger for all his great work, to pay the engineer to mix and master the date, and to pay for Faulkner's flight to the US so we can promote this great music with concerts, lectures, and radio shows throughout the US and Canada.

In order to release the recording, and subsidize the CD marketing tour to promote this great music in advance of its commercial release, I'm asking for your help. Kickstarter is a project-driven, crowd-funding website that allows the Pepper Adams world community to work together in a grassroots way to make this happen and perpetuate Pepper Adams' legacy.  But it's an all-or-nothing deal.  If I don't meet or exceed my goal of $7,000 by the 30-day deadline, no money changes hands, no rewards are given, the new recording stays on the shelf, and the tour is in jeopardy.  Can you please help? Can you work with me to bring this exciting project to fruition?

Please use one of these urls and donate whatever you can.  No donation is too small and all is very much appreciated!  For your generosity, some great gifts await you!  You'll see them at my Kickstarter page. 

This is a 30-day sprint, so please spread the word.  I'm looking forward to sharing this music with you. Long live Pepper Adams!

Thank you,
Gary Carner