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.