Monday, February 17, 2014

March 30 London Concert of Pepper Adams' Music

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

On March 30, 2014 UK baritone saxophonist Colin Mills will be putting on a concert of big band music in London dedicated solely to the compositions of Pepper Adams. Joining him on the gig of music by UK arranger Tony Faulkner are top London players such as Mike Fletcher, George Crowley, Callum Au, Tom White, Louis Dowdeswell, Russell Bennett, Neil Bullock and Rob Barron.

Colin was selected by the BBC as the UK representative in the 2012 European Jazz Orchestra and has been playing in big bands for nearly 20 years. Colin is a specialized baritone player with a fluent range over four octaves, heavily influenced by the greats of the baritone world such as Mulligan, Adams, Gullen, Brignola, Bluiett and Carney. Colin now regularly plays with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, the Jay Craig Big Band and smaller bands such as Bad Ass Brass and his own small band projects. 

The gig is at the Gunnersbury Pub in Chiswick, London. It starts at 1230 and it’s £10 at the door.

Saxes: Michael Fletcher, Gemma Moore, Andy IsherwoodGeorge CrowleyColin Mills,
Trombones: Callum AuTom DunnettTom WhiteRoss Brennan,
Trumpets: Louis DowdeswellRichard FreemanRussell BennettGavin Broom,
Guitar: Ian Lawes
Drums Neil Bullock
Bass: Tom Mark
Piano: Rob Barron

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More Pepper with Bevan Manson

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Some of you are familiar with Bevan Manson, the superb pianist, composer and arranger. Bevan did the octet charts for me, featuring Gary Smulyan, for the final concert of Pepper Adams Week in New York City (2012). Having Bevan sculpt charts for sax, rhythm section, and string quartet was an exciting way of moving Pepper's music into an entirely new realm. The second set of that great night at Birdland can be heard at Click "Audio for the 2012 Tour." With George Mraz and Kenny Washington can you get a much better rhythm section? Thanks again to Motema Music and Mary Ann Topper for producing this very special week.

My work with Bevan is now taking a new direction, though some of it has been a few years in the making. Bevan is soon applying for a composers grant to write a piece for flutist Lew Tabackin and chamber orchestra based on Pepper's themes. Bevan and I first discussed an orchestral piece in 2012. Our plan is to schedule several concerts way in advance to get the music performed and rehearsed, then record it for a Bevan Manson compilation CD not likely dedicated exclusively to Pepper's music.

Three other Bevan Manson projects are moving ahead too. One is a collaboration between Bevan and arranger/composer Tony Faulkner for a second flute feature for Lew Tabackin. This one is an orchestral medley of Pepper's seven ballads. Tony suggested the idea when we were traveling together last year on our Pepper Adams tour. 

You might not know it but the Metropole Orchestra, featuring Pepper Adams, recorded for NOS Radio in 1982. None of the material has been released and I'm not sure what's happened to the charts. At that December gig in Hilversum Pepper and the orchestra recorded a beautiful version of Pepper's ballad Urban Dreams along with Witchcraft, Linger Awhile, Gone with the Wind, and I'm All Smiles. Pepper gave me a copy of the date as a gift and was quite proud of it.

Besides the two orchestral works for Lew Tabackin, I've also suggested that Bevan score for orchestra and flute Lew Tabackin's exquisite arrangement of Pepper's samba Bossa Nouveau. You can hear Lew's brilliant performance at It was part of the second half of a double bill at Birdland, opposite Manson and the octet.

One last project that has begun is a classical guitar arrangement of Ephemera, Pepper's personal favorite composition. I studied guitar and Renaissance lute privately with John Varner for seven years in New Jersey and I'm very fond of the idiom. Since the 1980s when I last studied the instruments, the amount of classical guitarists all over the world has exploded, possibly in part due to the Suzuki Method adopting the instrument as part of their curriculum. 

With the huge number of players in mind, my plan is to do a CD's worth of arrangements of a wide variety of Pepper tunes. Young guitarist Henry Johnson, the son Minneapolis guitar pedagogue Alan Johnson, is trying his hand (pardon the pun) this summer at arranging the original version of Ephemera from Pepper's 1973 recording of the same name. Ultimately, Bevan Manson, who has already composed works for guitar, can assist in the project as needed.

Besides being a very gifted guitarist, Henry is also a tenor saxophonist and Pepper Adams fan. To my ears, the head of Ephemera could be beautifully arranged incorporating George Mraz's bounce time bass line underneath the melody, and by using Roland Hanna's incredible comping as fills and counterpoint. Pepper's opening cadenza could make for a spectacular guitar fanfare, don't you think? What's done in the middle section, though, is beyond me! I'm eager to hear what Henry devises.

Obviously, Bevan's octet charts for Gary Smulyan have been laying fallow for two years and need to be recorded. I've decided to delay until October my crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,500 for another four Manson charts to have enough material for yet another CD. These new charts are being written to feature Pat LaBarbera on both tenor and soprano sax. Any thoughts on what tunes Bevan should do? So far we have these for Smulyan: Jirge (as a rhumba), Julian (as a ballad), In Love with Night (as a ballad) and Lovers of Their Time (Latin). The plan is to record the four new charts in Toronto with a mostly Toronto based band including Andrew Homzy's two daughters on violin and hopefully Dave Brubeck's son Matt on cello.

End of the Book

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I heard from Lewis Porter about a week ago. Lewis has for so many years served as a mentor to me. If I have a question about the efficacy or mechanics of a jazz project, I always turn first to him. I can't even begin to mention how his guidance in the last few years shaped the final design of my Pepper Adams annotated discography Pepper Adams' Joy Road.

This time around I needed advice on how to publish my upcoming Pepper anthology. Lewis reminded me in an email, "The era of the book is over! Time to face it!" I suspected enough but needed to hear it from him to get perspective on what others in the field have been doing. Scarecrow Press, for their part, was interested in a book proposal from me, but my editor warned me that the Press could only publish it in hardcover and that the price would be $75 or more. 

My primary desire has always been to expose as many people as possible to Pepper's great body of work. Not having the anthology available in paperback and the idea of only getting it sold to 150 libraries doesn't make sense. Accordingly, the upcoming Pepper Adams anthology will be an e-book sold at, and elsewhere. This will ensure that everyone worldwide, especially musicians and fans, are able to buy the work and that it stays as affordable as possible. 

I'm very pleased with the enthusiasm that many of the authors have exhibited thus far. The book will be comprised almost exclusively of newly written pieces done by jazz musicians. I'm after as many perspectives as possible and I'm eager to break new ground about Pepper's musical contribution.

I'm also considering including some things that I've already written about Pepper. A handful of interview excerpts from my Pepper book are probably the most relevant. One quote from Hank Jones about Pepper's genius is especially gripping. Frankly, I'm far too busy with my day job to write something new. Editing, formatting, and marketing the eBook will take plenty of time as it is!

The first piece to be submitted will be Detroit bassist Ken Kellett's reminiscence. He will discuss the Detroit jazz scene of the 1940s, '50s and '60s and the importance of jazz elders to Detroit's great music tradition. He will also write about his experiences playing with and hanging out with Pepper. He knew Pepper quite well so this should be a fascinating and amusing piece.

I'm particularly honored to announce that the esteemed composer, arranger, and Ellington and Mingus scholar Andrew Homzy has agreed to write the foreword. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Updates on The Master

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I've heard from Stu Fine at Denon. My proposal to reissue The Master with never before heard, very historic alternate takes is moving up the corporate chain of command. I hope to have some substantive progress to report in the next few weeks.

It turns out that I have only four alternates, not five: Bossallegro, Rue Serpente, and two of Enchilada Baby. On Pepper's cassette, Lovers of Their Time is denoted as a second take. That's what led me to believe I had a fifth alternate. Some research at Denon will hopefully turn up the first take, but I suspect it's incomplete. 

Fortunately, all four alternates on Pepper's cassette are complete performances. They're really superb and the sound is well preserved. I'm eager for you to hear them. Any of the alternates would've worked on the original Muse release with an edit or two. Pepper and Mraz are flawless throughout. A faster version of Enchilada is done; cool to hear. It's kind of amazing that they nailed Chelsea Bridge and My Shining Hour in one take. Just another indication of this outstanding band's very high level of musicianship.

Flanagan and Mraz were Pepper's absolute favorites on their respective instruments. To my knowledge, Pepper never had the opportunity to play with all three of his favorite rhythm section musicians at the same time, even on a gig. To hear this rhythm section as a unit, you'd need to check out the 1978 recording Confirmation, Flanagan's date for Enja.

Who was Pepper's favorite drummer?  Elvin Jones, of course. Pepper always tried to hire Elvin for his dates as a leader. By the 1970s Jones toured quite a bit and spent a lot of time in Japan. Because of that, starting in the late 1970s drummer Billy Hart became Pepper's second choice. Hart wasn't available for The Master, so Pepper hired Leroy Williams, a drummer who was working at the time with Barry Harris. Pepper had recently gigged with Williams in Kansas City. 

Frankly, I'm surprised that Pepper didn't hire Mel Lewis for his final stretch of dates as a leader. They were very close musical associates and their collaboration started in the Kenton band in 1956. Apart from their work with Thad Jones (in the big band and in the Thad-Pepper Quintet) a Jimmy Witherspoon date in c. 1966, and a 1979 project with Helen Merrill and Dick Katz, Pepper only recorded with Mel Lewis while they were both on the West Coast in 1956-57. Kind of curious. Any thoughts on that? Am I forgetting anything? After twelve years with Thad-Mel, maybe Pepper wanted a break? Perhaps he thought using Mel would interfere with him forging a new identity as a "single?"