Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet: New Discoveries

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I was startled to discover a file of magazine ads for Pepper Adams gigs sent to me on 20 December 2011. Maybe it was sent as a Christmas gift? I completely forgot about the file but found it on my old laptop that I haven't used in quite some time. The email included almost 50 clippings, mostly from the New York Times, Billboard, the Village Voice and New York magazine. 

The value of these documents is how they position Adams in time and reveal the breadth of his work and the nature of his professional relationships. Several documents have already gotten me to change the historical record, especially as they relate to Pepper's discography. I've also had to shift my thinking about the Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet.

Before reviewing Basile's material, it seemed that the Quintet was disbanded in favor of the orchestra. Yes, the Quintet had a few gigs here and there, but they seemed to be mostly clustered in the mid- to late-60s around the time of the 1966 Mean What You Say date for Milestone. Judging from the new data below, however, it's now clear that Thad and Pepper (with Mel Lewis) sustained the quintet for more than eleven years while working together in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

These documents also reveal how producers and club owners capitalized on the success of the orchestra by billing the Jones-Adams Quintet as the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet" or the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet featuring Pepper Adams." One of the first examples of this was the 1968 Japanese release of Mean What You Say. According to Jerry Dodgion, Pepper had a chance to see the Japanese version of the LP when the Jones-Lewis Orchestra first visited Japan in the summer of 1968. That's when Pepper discovered that the record company had changed the name of the group to the "Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet." Pepper was livid! It's one thing to alter the band leadership on a placard or table tent for a one-nighter. It another thing entirely to do it on a recording. Has anyone seen this release? It might've been released on Milestone via a licensee. 

For years Pepper wanted to form a quintet with Thad Jones. After working together on a cluster of projects  Pepper Adams Plays the Music of Charlie Mingus (1963, Motown), an unissued 1963 date for Motown that I've been trying to get Universal to release, and Oliver Nelson's 1964 classic More Blues and the Abstract Trut– Thad and Pepper finally established a working group in 1965, only to be usurped later that year by the orchestra. More than anything Pepper wanted to work in a small group where he could blow. He was tired of sitting in saxophone sections. Adams, in fact, was very disappointed that Thad established the big band. He resisted joining. About that, see Doc Holladay's commentary in Pepper Adams' Joy Road regarding the formation of the big band and Pepper's hesitancy to be a full-time member.

Apart from listings about Thad Jones, there's lots of surprises below. The 1977 Cuban trip was an important discovery, something that David Amram didn't discuss with me when I interviewed him. It helps explain why Paquito D'Rivera was so glowing in his praise about Pepper when I interviewed him. 

The continued relationship of Pepper and Phil Woods is underscored. Did you know that the bari chair in Woods' octet was conceived for Pepper? Pepper passed away before the group got going and Nick Brignola got the gig. 

The twin-bari 1981 gig with Ronnie Cuber might've been what led them to try to establish a group and book a series of gigs. That never materialized but imagine if tapes of some of these things turn up? 

Here's 29 Frank Basile discoveries that are not already listed in the Chronology ( or included in my unpublished updates:

Apr 3: San Francisco: Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd appear on "Jazz Audition," Russ Wilson's evening radio show on KJAZ.

Aug 12: New York: Tony Scott gig for Jazzmobile on 129th Street, with Joe Thomas, Jimmy Nottingham, Marshall Brown, Milt Hinton and Osie Johnson.

Sept 2: New York: Milt Jackson gig at Town Hall, backed by 15-piece band (including Howard McGhee, Jimmy Owens, Julius Watkins, Benny Powell, James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Clifford Jordan) that mostly performed Heath arrangements.

June 15: Staten Island NY: Outdoor concert at Daytop Village, with Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and possibly Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster and Milt Jackson.

Dec 1: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Town Hall.

Mar 16: New York: Duke Pearson Big Band at the Village Vanguard.

c. Nov: New York: Dick Lavsky jingles with Joe Wilder, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Walt Levinsky, Tommy Newsom and Roland Hanna.

Mar 11: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Town Hall.

May 11-16: New York: Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet, billed as "The Big Little Jazz Band," play a week at the Village Vanguard. Rhythm section: Roland Hanna, Richard Davis and Mel Lewis.

Oct. 29: New York: Rod Levitt octet at the Jazz Center, with Jimmy Nottingham and Jerry Dodgion.

c. Jan 11-16: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Slugs.

Sept 19: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra gig aboard a chartered Staten Island Ferry, sponsored by Festival on the River.

Nov 11: Brooklyn NY: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at the Academy of Music.

Jan 18: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at NFE Theater.

July 14: Mahwah NJ: Phil Woods septet at Ramapo College, with Jay Leonhart and Frankie Dunlop.

Mar 9: New York: Gig at Eddie Condon's.

May 16: Wayne NJ: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at William Paterson College's Shea Center.

June 6: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Eddie Condon's.

Oct 22: New York: Nancy Wilson with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Nov 14: New York: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Quintet at Eddie Condon's.

Jan 27, 28 or 29: Glassboro NJ: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Glassboro State College Jazz Festival.

Mar 20: Berkeley CA: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the University of California.

May: Havana, Cuba: Adams, Thad Jones, David Amram and others perform with Cuban musicians as part of an historic U.S.-Cuban cultural exchange mission.

June 17-18: West Paterson NJ: Gig at Three Sisters.

Dec 16-17: West Paterson NJ: Gig at Three Sisters.

c. Oct 18: New York: Pepper Adams gives a talk abut his life in jazz at Jazzmania. Carla Bley, Chico Hamilton, Adams and Red Rodney were the first musicians invited to give talks about their lives as part of a new Wednesday evening series "Meet the Musician."

Feb 23-24: West Paterson NJ: Pepper Adams at Three Sisters.

Apr 19: New York: Gig at Symphony Space, sponsored by the Universal Jazz Coalition, to raise funds for the Louis Armstrong Jazz Center. Other participants include Vic Dickenson, Roland Hanna, Sam Jones, Sheila Jordan, Norris Turney and Waren Vache.

Feb 6-7: New York: Pepper Adams-Ronnie Cuber Quartet at Jazzmania.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to Frank Basile and Matt Snyder. Frank suggested that Pepper might've been upset with a new album cover photo of Thad and Mel Lewis (not the original) though it still stated Thad Jones and Pepper Adams as leaders. Basile also questioned whether Pepper made the trip to Cuba. Fortunately, Matt Snyder is curating the David Amram Archive at the New York Public Library. He sent me a Down Beat article written about the tour. Neither Pepper nor Thad made that trip. Musicians on the first historic jazz trip to Cuba since Castro were Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Stan Getz and David Amram. The first three brought their own groups.