Saturday, April 4, 2015

On the Trail

Last week I wrote about the long-lost 1955 live recording done by many of the greatest Detroit musicians. I got a text about it from saxophonist Adam Schroeder, saying he wanted to search Los Angeles for the tapes if I could just give him some more information. Adam, a very positive guy (and a very fine player in his own right) said, "I know they're here. I can feel it." After a smile and a chuckle, I called producer Rudy Tucich. All I was able to learn from him is that the tapes were mailed out in April, 1955, just a few weeks after the concert. Maybe Schroeder can do the impossible? Until something turns up, however, I'm requalifying the session in my Pepper discography as "Broadcasts and Recordings That No Longer Survive." A new version will appear soon at "Joy Road (Discography) Updates."

As you can see, I'm not only trying to discover brand new discographical things. I'm also trying to solve longstanding riddles. One example was last week's post. Still another is embedded within an Author's Note on Page 4 of my Joy Road:

"Private recordings made during the period 1953-1956 at the Blue Bird Inn, Klein's Show Bar and probably the World Stage and West End Hotel comprise part of the collections of saxophonist Joe Brazil, impressario Willie Bolar and jazz fan Terry Weiss. These collections contain recordings of Pepper Adams in performance with Wardell Gray, Sonny Stitt, Miles Davis, Thad Jones, Billy Mitchell and many of the foremost Detroit musicians of Adams' generation, such as Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Barry Harris, Frank Foster, Elvin Jones, Yusef Lateef, Curtis Fuller, Doug Watkins and Paul Chambers. Additionally, because Detroit in the 1950s was one of the major jazz centers in the United States and, thus, an important destination for traveling musicians, these three collections also contain recordings that capture in performance many significant soloists of that time who were touring as singles or with ensembles."

As with the Detroit Institute of Arts recording of 1955, I've long wondered about these collectors; my "Big Three," vaguely reminiscent of Detroit's Big Three Automakers. I once interviewed Willie Bolar but he refused to discuss the contents of his collection. I also got pretty close to Joe Brazil, interviewing a musician friend of his in Seattle, Pete Leinonen, who said he would try to speak to Brazil for me. Terry Weiss, for her part, remains a complete mystery. I'm not even sure how I learned about her. When it was time to finish the Pepper discography, all I could do was publish the above excerpt with the hope that someone else would make another attempt. Fortunately, there's been some progress.

Some time ago, Mark Stryker, who covers jazz for the Detroit Free Press and who's nearly done writing a book about Detroit jazz musicians--not Pepper though, because he feels it would be redundant considering my work--let me know that a researcher in Washington State has been working with the estate of Joe Brazil to finally assess what's in Brazil's collection. Hallelujah! I hope to speak directly with him soon to see what he's discovered regarding Pepper. 

What about Bolar and Weiss? I had a conversation with Stryker today about them. I mentioned to Mark that he's probably the last person who could possibly make something happen with Bolar, considering Bolar's age and Stryker's position at the newspaper and his connections with the Detroit jazz community. My fear, as it is with Donald Byrd and anyone in jazz that has important papers and recordings, is that they'll die and their estate, not knowing its value, throws everything away. If Stryker's able to get anywhere with Bolar I'll let you know.

Stryker never heard of Terry Weiss but he's promised to ask around about her. I was told many years ago that Weiss lugged around a reel-to-reel at the Bluebird, Klein's and possibly even the West End Hotel and World Stage.

                                             (Mark Stryker)

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