Saturday, August 29, 2015

Now Hear This

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I heard back from Pug Horton. It turns out that she and Bob Wilber have a son that lives in Atlanta. They expect to visit him sometime in 2016. It looks like my interview with Wilber will be put off until that time. Apparently, he prefers to do it in person. Something to look forward to, for sure!

I just found Pepper Adams' very first 8-track jazz "olio" that he put together. (See Adams assembled about 40 of these collections to enjoy while motoring around to gigs, etc. Since this first one includes Dedication and Consummation from the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis date Consummation, I figure that Pepper started making these particular sets sometime in late 1971, when the LP was likely released. If these were the first things Pepper made on 8-track, then he would have purchased his Wollensak-3M 8-track (see recorder sometime that year--that is, if he didn't make a bunch of 8-track classical recordings beforehand. What's interesting about this first selection of tunes is the titles he chose. Here's the roster:

1. Duke Ellington: Fade Up
2. Tony Coe: Regrets
3. Pepper Adams: One Mint Julep
4. Thad Jones-Mel Lewis: Dedication
5. Yusef Lateef: Ma, He's Makin' Eyes at Me
6. Barrry Harris: Like This
7. Duke Pearson: Tones for Joan's Bones
8. Billy Mitchell: A Little Juicy
9. Bud Powell: Dusk in Sandi
10. Duke Ellington: All Day Long
11. Pepper Adams: Port of Rico
12. Blue Mitchell: Smooth as the Wind
13. Thad Jones-Pepper Adams: Bossa Nova Ova
14. Thad Jones-Mel Lewis: Consummation
15. Joe Henderson: Without a Song
16. Pepper Adams: Azurete
17. Duke Ellington: Rock Skippin' at the Blue Note
18. Music, Inc (Charles Tolliver/Stanley Cowell): Ruthie's Heart
19. Pepper Adams: Moten Swing

What can we make of this? Of the 19 cuts, 1 (#18) was previously unknown to me, 3 are Ellington, 5 are Pepper's dates as a leader or co-leader, 7 are recordings he appears on (it would have been 9 had he not missed most of the Consummation recording), and 12 are led or co-led by Detroiters. I'm especially taken that Pepper would include the four unissued Motown cuts that he did in 1963. Those wonderful tracks, with arrangements by Thad Jones, remain unissued to this day. I've been trying to get Universal to release them.

Adams made his second 8-track jazz tape with these tunes (see

1. Hank Jones: Fugue Tune
2. Joe Henderson: Invitation
3. Charlie Parker: Repitition
4. Yusef Lateef: Quarantine
5. Duke Ellington: Just Scratching the Surface
6. Tommy Flanagan: Solacium
7. Billy Eckstine: Air Mail Special
8. Tony Coe: Together
9. Dizzy Gillespie: Serenade to Sweden
10. Ben Webster: Did You Call Her Today
11. Mike Westbrook: Portrait
12. Rubberlegs Williams: What's the Matter Now
13. Duke Ellington: Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool
14. John Coltrane: Time After Time

What can we make of these cuts, especially as compared to #1? More Ellington and Coe, and, to be sure, a bunch of Detroiters again, plus another surprise cut for me by Rubberlegs Williams. Thank goodness for YouTube, here's the tune: It's a Charlie Parker feature from 1945. Flanagan's Solacium (whatever does that mean?) is new to me too. It features early solos by the leader, Coltrane, Idrees Sulieman and Kenny Burrell. The Eckstine tune has Leo Parker on baritone (on the studio version), though I'm not sure if he's audible. This is one of the first great bop bands. This a smoking live version, possibly not what Pepper chose, but presumably with a fantastic Fats Navarro solo and Budd Johnson on tenor. What a great chart. Did Johnson write it?

Shall we check out one more? Here's Pepper's sixth 8-track olio:

1. Duke Ellington: Perdido
2. Freddie Hubbard: Latina
3. Rex Stewart: Georgia on My Mind
4. Bud Powell: Hallelujah
5. Duke Ellington: Primpin' for the Prom
6. Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner
7. Rex Stewart: Alphonse and Gaston
8. Duke Ellington: Tootin' Through the Roof
9. John Surman: Episode
10. Thad Jones: Let's Play One
11. Elvin Jones: Tergiversation
12. Pepper Adams : Carolyn
13. Bud Powell: I Want to Be Happy
14. Duke Ellington: Boy Meets Horn
15. Louie Bellson: The Jeep is Jumpin'
16. Ben Webster: The Days of Wine and Roses
How about that exchange on #7 between Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart? #9 surprised me: Quite free, and with no Surman bari solo. 

What fun it's been getting into the heart and mind of Pepper Adams! I hope you've enjoyed the ride.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Blood Brothers: Pepper Adams and Bob Wilber

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

My  apologies to any readers who expected a post yesterday and were disappointed not to see it. For more than a year I've dutifully posted every Saturday. This weekend, however, I needed a slight reprieve. Better to supply something of value than rotely produce drivel just for the sake of a deadline?

I was very pleased this past week to hear from Pug Horton, Bob Wilber's wife. Here's what she wrote:

"Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you--we have been on the road. Are you in NY? We will be coming to NY Sept 26th. Hopefully seeing Mike [Steinman] around that time too. Let me know how we can get together & Bob would love to talk about his relationship with Pepper. He talks about the time in Rochester quite a lot…He hated it except for the time he spent with him!!!"

My reply:

"Thanks so much for your email. I left NYC in 2004 and currently live in Atlanta. I'd be thrilled to speak with Bob again, either by phone or Skype, at that time. I'm heading out of town on Sept. 27th to celebrate my 30th anniversary, back on the 30th, but I'm sure I can grab an hour if those days are best for him. Just let me know. 

Did you see my blog post?: 

Gary Carner

In 1987 I interviewed Bob Wilber about Pepper Adams. It's the only time we ever spoke. There's much I'd still like to ask him about his brief time in Rochester and about his subsequent work with Pepper. As I've written, I believe that Wilber was the single most important influence on Pepper as a young player. I only came to that conclusion by virtue of my research this summer into Pepper's early life. I've had a chance to listen to many hours of interview I conducted in the late 1980s with some of the musicians who were on the Rochester scene in the mid-1940s and knew Pepper--most importantly Raymond Murphy, John Huggler, Everett Gates, Skippy Williams, Ralph Dickinson, and, of course, Bob Wilber. I'd like to ask Wilber if he remembers any specific advice he gave Pepper, such as exercises, fingerings, pieces to play, or any kind of technical advice on getting around the horn. Besides that, anything new he can tell me about Pepper as a 14- to 16-year-old would be fascinating! Wilber, much like Raymond Murphy and John Huggler, was almost three years older than Pepper. In a way, all three of them functioned as Pepper's big brothers and, to some degree, as a prosthetic family after the death of Pepper's father in 1940, when Pepper was nine. I'd like to ask Wilber about that too, or at least his perception of Pepper's sense of loneliness.

Regarding Bob Wilber and the very strong bond that he and Pepper established in those formative early days, it's not surprising how their paths continued to cross as both became in-demand professionals. I've already written how the two of them spent a good amount of time together during Wilber's one semester at the Eastman School in the Fall of 1945. Here's a summary of their very early experience, from

cAug: New York: Adams and his mother travel to New York and meet Bob Wilber at a Max Kaminsky gig at the Pied Piper in Greenwich Village. The Pied Piper was later renamed the Cafe Bohemia.

Sept: Rochester NY: Adams begins 10th Grade at John Marshall High School and plays in the school band throughout the year. See On Saturday afternoons, Adams, John Huggler and Bob Wilber have sessions at Bob Wilber's apartment, playing along with jazz records. See cJuly 1944. (Wilber was attending Eastman, but only that Fall semester.) Wilber goes to Adams' place to play along with jazz records and have dinner. Wilber also visits with Adams and Huggler at Raymond Murphy's house.

Oct: Rochester NY: Adams in 10th Grade. On Saturday afternoons, Adams, John Huggler and Bob Wilber have sessions at Bob Wilber's apartment, playing along with jazz records. See cJuly 1944. (Wilber was attending Eastman, but only that Fall semester.) Wilber goes to Adams' place to play along with jazz records and have dinner. Wilber also visits with Adams and Huggler at Raymond Murphy's house.

Nov: Rochester NY: Adams in 10th Grade. On Saturday afternoons, Adams, John Huggler and Bob Wilber have sessions at Bob Wilber's apartment, playing along with jazz records. See cJuly 1944. (Wilber was attending Eastman, but only that Fall semester.) Wilber goes to Adams' place to play along with jazz records and have dinner. See cJuly 1944. Wilber also visits with Adams and Huggler at Raymond Murphy's house.
Nov 29-30: Rochester NY: A serious snow storm paralyzes the city. Adams is likely homebound.

Dec: Rochester NY: Adams in 10th Grade. On Saturday afternoons, Adams, John Huggler and Bob Wilber have sessions at Bob Wilber's apartment, playing along with jazz records. See cJuly 1944. (Wilber was attending Eastman, but only that Fall semester.) Wilber goes to Adams' place to play along with jazz records and have dinner. See cJuly 1944. Wilber also visits with Adams and Huggler at Raymond Murphy's house.

I'd especially like to know if Wilber studied or hung out with Eastman professor and clarinetist Jack End. End, against tremendous institutional bias, fought to have jazz at least played by students at Eastman in the 1940s and early '50s, though at that time it was not accepted as an official part of the curriculum. Wilber, it's clear, hated his time at Eastman. Might have an association with End at least made it marginally palatable? Did Wilber introduce Pepper to End? I'd love to know more about what End dealt with at Eastman and more about End and his playing on the Rochester scene.

Unless Pepper saw Wilber in New York on a visit south to the big city, Pepper may not have seen Wilber again from January, 1946, when Wilber left Eastman, until Pepper moved to Detroit in June, 1947. That's because, much to Pepper's mother's credit, on their way west to Detroit, Pepper and his mother lived at the Hotel Edison in Manhattan for a full month. It was then that Adams and Wilber reunited. By then, Wilber was living with Sidney Bechet. Talk about getting close to the source! As musicians, Adams, Murphy and Huggler, with Wilber, had strived, in their listening and practicing, to get as close as possible to the true source of New Orleans music--"from the horse's mouth," as Huggler told me. Now, Adams could finally meet Bechet and see that Wilber was indeed living the dream. Here's my citation about that time:

July: New Yor: Adams moves with his mother to New York City for a month while their belongings are transported to Detroit. They live at the Hotel Edison on 47th Street in the Theater District before moving to Detroit. Cleo Adams decided to relocate because elementary school teaching jobs paid far more in Detroit than in Rochester. Pepper meets Sidney Bechet, probably through Bob Wilber. Pepper studies saxophone with Skippy Williams, the tenor saxophonist in Ellington’s band who he met at the Temple Theatre in early March, 1944 and who first replaced Ben Webster in Ellington's band. See 3-5 Mar 1944. Adams attends rehearsals of the Joan Lee Big Band (based in Hershey PA) at Williams' apartment on 48th Street. Lee's band was an all-white, all-female group that Williams was rehearsing.

After Pepper moved to Detroit, it's not known if Wilber and Adams saw each other or remained in contact until Pepper moved to New York City in early 1956. I'd like to ask Bob about that, if they didn't speak at all for ten years, and whether Bob attended any of those heady loft-jam-sessions around New York City that were taking place when Pepper first arrived. 

The first band that Adams and Wilber actually worked together in as professional musicians was Benny Goodman's. The two of them had this tour:

Apr 1-5: New York: Benny Goodman rehearsals. Later, the Pepper Adams Quintet at the Village Vanguard. See 24-31 Mar. See
Apr 6-9: New York: Benny Goodman rehearsals.
Apr 10: New York: Benny Goodman rehearsal. Later, Benny Goodman "Swing Into Spring" telecast.
Apr 11-21: New York: Benny Goodman rehearsals.
cApr 22: Troy NY: Benny Goodman Orchestra begins its three-week tour. The band boards a bus that morning (in front of the Hotel President on West 48 Street in New York) for its Troy gig that evening, then stays in Albany.
cApr 23: Rutland VT: Benny Goodman Orchestra's second gig of the tour.
Apr 24: Hershey PA: Gig with Benny Goodman, probably at Hershey Park. Herb Geller and Pepper Adams are featured, with the rhythm section (Russ Freeman, Turk Van Lake, Scott LaFaro, Roy Burns), on Bernie's Tune. Other band members are Taft Jordan and Bob Wilber. Dakota Staton and the Ahmad Jamal Trio are also on this General Artists tour package.
Apr 25: Off/travel?
Apr 26: Montreal: Gig with Benny Goodman at the Forum, then Adams and Herb Geller sit in after hours at the Little Vienna with trumpeter Herbie Spanier.
Apr 27: Montreal: Off day for Goodman tour. Adams does small group gig at Vieux Moulin with Herb Geller, Scott LaFaro and Roy Burns.
Apr 28: Toronto: Gig with Benny Goodman at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Apr 29: Buffalo: Gig with Benny Goodman at Kleinhans Music Hall.
cApr 30: New York: Gig with Benny Goodman at Madison Square Garden.

May: Indianapolis: Adams, Scott LaFaro and Bob Wilber sit in with Wes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery at the Missile Club. 
May: Dallas: Adams rooms with Taft Jordan and shares an elevator ride in their hotel with Lassie, the celebrity TV collie, who was in town on a promotional tour.
May: Iowa City IA: Gig with Benny Goodman at the University of Iowa.
cMay 13: Pittsburgh: Gig with Benny Goodman at the Old Mosque.
cMay 14: New York: Returns from Goodman tour.

After the Goodman tour, I don't know to what degree they saw each other in New York or even worked together. There is this gig for the Duke Ellington Society, then the very fine Bobby Hackett date Creole Cooking, for which Wilber wrote the arrangements: 

May 22: New York: Bob Wilber gig for the Duke Ellington Society gig at the Barbizon Plaza Theatre, with Shorty Baker, Quentin Jackson, Jackie Byard, Wendell Marshall, Dave Bailey and Flo Handy. See

Jan 30: New York: Bobby Hackett date for MGM, with Bob Wilber, Bob Brookmeyer, Jerry Dodgion, Zoot Sims, et al. Later, possible double appearance with the Joe Henderson All-Star Big Band and Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Synanon Jazz Benefit at the Village Theater preceding the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard.

Mar 13: New York: Bobby Hackett date for MGM, with Bob Willber, Bob Brookmeyer, Jerry Dodgion, Zoot Sims, et al. Later, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard.
Mar 30: New York: Bobby Hackett date for MGM, with Bob Wilber, Bob Brookmeyer, Jerry Dodgion, Zoot Sims, et al. Later, Elvin Jones gig at the Five Spot. See 28-29 Mar.

After the Hackett date, I'm not sure if Adams and Wilber recorded or worked any gigs until the interesting 1972 project below for Music Minus One. The label's concept was to provide a backing band for the practicing soloist, well before Jamey Aebersold started his series. Wilber did tell me about his writing for saxophone quartet (two altos, tenor and baritone). Wilber held rehearsals at his New York City apartment, possibly in the late 1960s. Other than Wilber and Adams, someone I forget played tenor and possibly Rudy Powell played the other alto part. I don't know precisely when the rehearsals took place, if any were recorded, nor over how long a stretch of time the rehearsals lasted. 

June 8: New York: Bob Wilber rehearsal, probably for 19 June.
June 15: New York: Bob Wilber rehearsal, probably for 19 June. See 8 June.
June 19: New York: Bob Wilber date for Music Minus One. Later, possible Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra gig at the Village Vanguard.

In 1974, Wilber put together a band to play Ellington tunes:

Apr 26: New York: Bob Wilber gig at Carnegie Hall, with Taft Jordan and Quentin Jackson, perform a tribute to Duke Ellington.
Apr 28: New York: Bob Wilber gig at the New York Jazz Museum, with Quentin Jackson, Taft Jordan, Larry Ridley and Bobby Rosengarden.

In 1977 Adams and Wilber were in a band together, led by Dick Hyman, doing a tribute to Duke Ellington:

July 17: Nice: Dick Hyman gig at La Grande Parade du Jazz, broadcast on FR3 television. Also, Thad Jones sextet gig at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Later, a third festival gig: Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at La Grande Parade du Jazz.

The Hyman gig for me has special significance. It gives me a chance to hear Pepper with the Ellington big band repertoire and imagine what it might have been like had he actually subbed for Harry Carney. I've written before that Pepper was Carney's designated sub in the Ellington band. Yet, in fifty years Carney never missed a gig! Well, I slightly exaggerate: He missed one two-week stretch of work--just once! Pepper told me that it was easier to reconstitute the Ellington reed section and slide Russell Procope or someone else from the section into the bari chair, then hire a local sub for tenor or alto, than to get Pepper to the gig.

The Hyman performance has additional significance. There's two especially wonderful Adams/Wilber moments. On the very first tune, Ellington's original theme "St. Louis Toodle-Oo," Pepper takes the first solo--classic, harmonically inventive Pepper all the way--and Eddie Daniels and Bob Wilber are both visibly amused by the incongruity of it. Later in the show, Wilber (on alto) and Adams have another beautiful moment together, playing the two opening 8-bar "A" sections in the theme of Ellington's "Blue Goose." (You can see Billy Mitchell totally broken up over how Pepper navigated the passage.) How far Adams and Wilber have traveled since the 1940s!

I'm especially enthused about this concert because I recently acquired a rare video of the TV show. I'm trying to get it uploaded to YouTube so everyone can see it. How about that sax section?: Bob Wilber, Eddie Daniels, Zoot Sims, Billy Mitchell, Pepper Adams.

In 1978, Adams and Wilber were able to play in several venues together in Nice. They were already touring together as part of an all-star 50th Anniversary Lionel Hampton commemorative gig:

June 28-30: New York: Rehearsals with Lionel Hampton.
June 30: New York: Lionel Hampton gig at Carnegie Hall, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al, recorded by Sutra. 

July 1-2: Saratoga NY: Hampton gig at the Performing Arts Center, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al.
July 3: Brooklyn NY: Off?
July 4: Travel. Departure for France. 
July 5: Travel. Transfer to Nice. 
July 6: Nice: Off. 
July 7: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al., at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. 
July 8: Off. 
July 9: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. See 7 July.
July 10: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez, with guest Dzzy Gillespie, at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. See 9 July.
July 11: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. See 10 July.
July 12: Nice: Dick Hyman gig, "Tribute to Count Basie," at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez, at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. 
July 13: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. See 11 July.
July 14: The Hague: Hampton gig at Prins Willem Alexander Zaal, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al., at the Northsea Jazz Festival. Recorded by AVRO television. 
July 15: Orange, France: Hampton gig at Theatre Antique, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al. 
July 16: Nice: Hampton gig at les Jardins des Arenes de Cimiez with guest Stephane Grappelli, at La Grande Parade du Jazz. Recorded by Radio France. See 13 July. 
July 17: Salon-de-Provence, France: Dizzy Gillespie gig, at Cour du Chateau de L'Empri as part of the Festival of Jazz, with Kai Winding, Curtis Fuller, Charles McPherson, Ray Bryant, Mickey Roker, et al. Recorded by Radio France. 
July 18: Perugia: Hampton gig, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al., and guest Dizzy Gillespie, at Umbria Jazz. Recorded by RAI. 
July 19: Travel. Hampton band arrives from Italy, possibly by bus. 
July 20: Travel. Hampton band arrives in England. 
July 21: Middlesbrough, England: Hampton gig, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al. 
July 22: Comblain-au-Pont, Belgium: Hampton gig, with Charles McPherson, Bob Wilber, Ray Bryant, et al. Later, a nearby gig with the Georges Arvanitas trio. 

Did Wilber and Adams see each other again after this 1978 tour? Did Bob reach out for Pepper when he heard that Pepper was dying of cancer? Pug Horton told me that Wilber greatly admired Pepper. I think she was referring to both personal and musical admiration. These are just some of the questions I'm eager to ask Bob Wilber. More soon! Have a great week.

                                            (Bob Wilber)

       (Adams in London, at the Ephemera 
            photo shoot, September, 1973)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

On the Trail . . . in August

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I'm closing up some lose ends with my Pepper Adams tape and CD collection. I'm doing this because I have stuff scattered about and my co-author, John Vana, is digitizing all my Pepper material for posterity--and so he can study it for our Pepper book. Here's a rather typical Saturday-in-the-life-of-Gary-Carner.

The first mystery tape I encountered this morning is a very well-recorded quintet date for trumpet/flugelhorn, baritone and rhythm section with the following tunes itemized on the tape box:

Side 1:
Mean What You Say
In a Sentimental Mood

Side 2: 
On the Trail
I Can't Get Started

From the bass sound, I can assess it's a post-'60s audience tape or broadcast, due to the slightly nasal pickup sound with low action. The band is really excellent and Pepper is brilliant and harmonically daring. What is this?

The drums sound like plastic heads, further supporting the 1970s or 1980s timeline. It sounds like a broadcast because it's so well recorded. The flugelhorn solo on "I Can't Get Started" is masterful. I wonder if it's Tom Harrell or Denny Christianson? Well, fortunately, it's a broadcast and Pepper stepped in to announce the first two tracks on Side 2. Then, the announcer cited in Swedish that the brass player is Jan Allan! What is this? Off to the Chronology? No, not necessary because the announcer cited the band: Pepper and Allan with Steffan Abeleen, Palle Danielsson and Alex Riel. Oh, OK, it's Pepper at Restaurant Guldhattan in Stockholm on 6 November 1972. Pepper's "On The Trail" solo is breathtaking, and, in his usually understated and amusing style, Pepper's announcement after the applause is as follows: 

"Thank you very much. We assume that you recognize the first two songs. They were 'On the Trail,' from the Grand Canyon Suite of Ferde Grofe. We're not going to play the rest of the Grand Canyon Suite this evening, however (chuckles), and that was 'I Can't Get Started.'" 

I went on to listen to the entire broadcast. Nothing else from Pepper equates to the sheer brilliance of his "On the Trail" solo. It's simply one of his greatest performances from that period. I suspect he was very happy as a newly traveling solo artist in Europe. He only started three years prior--in mid December, 1969 in Copenhagen, for a gig at Montmartre. 

Another amusing Pepper quip from the Stockholm broadcast: After playing "'Tis," (Thad Jones' tune that Pepper customarily played as a theme to end his sets), Pepper says: "So you know in the future, that means 'intermission' (chuckles)."

My second mystery tape sounds to me like the Shorty Rogers Big Band from the late 1950s. There's plenty of flugelhorn features and solos for various members of the band. This is a live thing, but possibly not from the Bobby Troup TV show from California, because it doesn't sounds like a polite TV audience. Two bari solos in it were definitely not Pepper. "Mountain Greenery" was part of his book back then and they play that. Then again, with some of the small group things, it does feel like a TV show.

Now to a few CDs that have been knocking around. From Dave Schiff I received Pepper and Roland Hanna at the Wilmington Music School. Here's the entry:

New Entry
21 June 1974, audience recording, Wilmington Music School, Wilmington DE: Wayne Andre, Steve Koontz tb; Dave Schiff fl, ts; Pepper Adams bs; Roland Hanna p; Don Schiff b; possibly Gary Griswold or Newman Barker dm.

a Quiet Lady
b Civilization and Its Discontents
c Straight, No Chaser
d Royal Garden Blues

On -c and -d, Andre and Koontz only. Schiff on ts.

From Thomas Hustad, the Ruby Braff historian, I received the following. Pepper is dazzling!:

New Entry:
19 July 1972, audience recording, Half Note, New York: Ruby Braff cornet; Pepper Adams bs; Dill Jones p; George Mraz b; Dottie Dodgion dm.

a Blues in A-Flat

This recording was discussed in Michael Steinman's blog "Jazz Lives" (, published on 5 August 2014: I will close with my single Pepper Adams sighting. In 1972, several friends and I followed Ruby Braff to gigs.  Although Ruby was unpredictable and unreasonably given to rage, he was always pleasant to us and allowed us to tape-record him. On July 19 of that year, my friend Stu and I came to the Half Note to record Ruby with the Welsh pianist Dill Jones, bassist George Mraz (then working with Pepper in the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis ensemble, and Dottie Dodgion on drums. About two-thirds through the evening, where the music had been very sweet, with Ruby’s characteristic leaps through the repertoire of Louis, Duke and Billie, a tall man ascended the stand with a baritone saxophone, was greeted warmly by the players, and the quintet launched into an extended blues in A-flat. I remember Dottie Dodgion being particularly enthusiastic about the unnamed musician’s playing, who packed his horn and went off into the warm Greenwich Village night. Who was that unmasked man? The subject of Carner’s book, and, yes, the tape exists, although not in my possession."

Now, a real mystery, or so it seemed at the time. I acquired a CD that said "Pepper Adams in San Remo, 1981." Pepper wrote the opening tune on the CD, Conjuration, in 1979 but the second tune, Dobbin', was written in 1983. Already, the recording date on the CD is suspect. Fortunately, Pepper announced pianist Ricardo Zegna and bassist Dodo Goya. That pins it down some. But before a search, first the other tunes. Doctor Deep was written in 1982. No real help there. The drumming is very pronounced and aggressive in an American kind of brash way. I'm starting to suspect drummer Ronnie Burrage. And, sure enough, it's listed in my Joy Road thusly, just poorly marked on my CD:

c15 October 1985, RAI TV broadcast, Salon delle Feste, San Remo Jazz Festival, San Remo, Italy: Pepper Adams bs*; Ricardo Zegna p; Dodo Goya b; Ronnie Burrage dm.

a Conjuration*
b Dobbin'*
c unknown waltz
d unknown blues
e Doctor Deep*

One last thing I recorded in my Pepper book but didn't identify very well is a Thad-Mel thing from Scandinavia in August, 1977. All the tempos are faster than usual, particularly "Low Down." This was the first tour for Richard Perry and Dick Oatts (who plays tenor). Jerry Dodgion and Ed Xiques were still in the band in the alto chairs. Dodgion's chart on "Oregon Grinder" gets a great workout.

                                                                 (Jan Allan)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rochester Jazz in the 1940s

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Several weeks ago (or was it a few months ago?) I promised a final post about my research into the jazz history of Rochester, New York. What follows is a completely random listing of material taken from my notes, some of which will be reshaped in my forthcoming Pepper Adams biography. 

1940s music scene in Rochester:

1. East Avenue: Piano bars. Some of the more commercial places were along East Avenue. The 5 O'Clock Club, O'Dell's Taproom, the Diamond Bar, the Chandelier and The Willows were clustered on East Avenue.
2. Downtown Theaters: Big bands played the Temple (for example, King Cole, Benny Carter and Lionel Hampton), Loews MGM (Krupa played there), occasionally the Palace (Nat Cole and Louis Prima played there). The movie theaters downtown had programs throughout the year and were where big bands would perform. Musicians after hours would drop into the Bartlett, especially those playing the Temple Theatre and staying across South Clinton Avenue at the Seneca Hotel. The Seneca in the 1920s was known in the 1920s for its paranormal activity, with seances and so forth
3. Downtown Clubs: Squeezer's on State St, Ottman's on Front St. The Park Lane was on Chestnut Street and featured trios. Vibist Ken Purtell played there.
4. Northwest Part of Town: The Sports Arena in Edgerton Park was behind Jefferson High School. It was the kind of park that could accommodate a county fair or rodeo. Larger bands played there, such as Ellington, Charlie Barnet, Gene Krupa, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey. The Sports Arena attracted a racially mixed audience.
5. Ballrooms: Stardust Ballroom in Edgerton Park or hotel ballrooms.
6. East Side: Pierre's had out-of-town bands, such as Coleman Hawkins. It was on Ormond and Kelly Street in the black section of town. The Highland Inn was a club after World War II on South Goodman St. Hank Berger played the Citadel on Smith Avenue.
7.West Side (Clarissa Street/Third Ward): The Colored Elks had name groups. The Elite was a dance hall on the second floor in a racially mixed neighborhood. Pepper Adams felt that the Elite band was the best band in town. It was certainly the most authentic small jazz group and the most swinging band of its time. The Pythodd (much later, at Clarissa and Spring, near the Elite) was next door to the Black Elks. The Elite was next to, or across the street from, the Old B&O Building on West Main. Nick's Hots was there. The area of the Elite had many speakeasies and, well before that, opium dens.
8. West Side (but really Southwest): Bartlett's was a nightclub (near Plymouth Avenue and Jefferson, between Third and Nineteenth Ward).
9. Midwinter Fireman's Ball or Policeman's Ball: It may have had its origins in the Rochester militia units and volunteer fire companies that held balls as far back as the 1840s. In March, the Policeman's Ball would have acts such as Harry James. They'd play at the Main Street Armory or Masonic Temple. According to Raymond Murphy, this attracted name groups such as Armstrong's Big Band, Basie (without Prez), Ellington in 1943 with Ben Webster. Events were held in Edgerton Park's Stardust Ballroom or in other hotel ballrooms.

10. Some after-hours clubs or private parties had music after the bars closed. One club on State Street had the prohibition speakeasy vibe, with the sliding panel in the front door.
11. The Triton started around 1946. East Main Street on the East Side had some local talent, but, generally speaking, larger, more commercial acts from out of town.
12. 1940s music scene in suburban Rochester included Manitou Beach, strictly in the summer. It was a big dance hall. Ray McKinley with Will Bradley played there.

Key Jazz Musicians in Rochester in the Early 1940s:
Several important musicians would have been on the scene when Pepper was evolving in Rochester as a young musician. The most important of these are pianist Herbie Brock, organist/pianist Doug Duke, and clarinetist Jack End.

Herbie Brock
Brock, a blind pianist and part-time tenor saxophonist, was arguably the dominant small-group musician in town. He was, according to Raymond Murphy, an Art Tatum disciple who was finally recorded first by Savoy in 1955. A piece done by Marc Myers on Brock (see discusses Brock's recordings and his adoption of a Bud Powell type of pianism. From the little I've heard, Brock—much like Hank Jones, Barry Harris and other Detroit pianists of that period—moved away from an overt late-stride, advanced harmonies, Tatum sensibility to a more streamlined, less orchestral, swinging, right-hand-dominated approach more akin to Powell.

Brock was the local star player. He played solo piano and also with small groups. Brock played at the House of Foran before the war. Jimmy "The Lion" Stewart was a white pianist who played at the House of Foran too. He was obliquely related to Herbie Brock by marrying Brock's sister. Stewart played at the Elite with Pepper Adams. Brock and Tatum got together in the mid 1940s in Buffalo to play duets. Bassist Al Bruno drove him there. Brock was born in Rochester. On tenor he played with a big sound. Brock's father and brother were also blind.

Ottman's on Front Street (mostly in the 1940s) was a former meat market, a narrow room with terrazzo tile floors. They had great quality meat, according to pianist Fred Remington, and they threw the scraps in the Genesee River. Herbie Brock often played at Ottman's. According to Lowell Miller, Ottman's was a place that musicians, especially those playing in the 'straight show' bands, would go to when their gigs were over.

Doug Duke
Inventor of the Hammond organ with Leslie. Originally, Duke would play spread-eagle, reaching an organ with his left hand so he could play melodic lines on a piano with his right hand. Obviously, incorporating both into a three-keyboard instrument was far less burdensome. Duke liked to alternate between the two textures of the organ and piano, as if to intimate two separate instruments or players, or to affect a sense of accompaniment.

Pianist Doug Duke returned to his hometown of Rochester in early 1942, after traveling with bands since the mid-1930s as a teenager. He had been traveling in the Orient when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. The U.S. Government advised all Americans to return home. Duke was denied entrance into the service due to a medical condition, possibly a burst eardrum. Instead, he worked in 1942 with Gene Leonard, then a longer stint with Shep Fields. Upon the recommendation of stride pianist Dick Mullaney, by late 1944 or early 1945 Duke took up a residency as the pianist at O'Dell's Taproom. Odell's, along with the 5 O'Clock Club, the Diamond Bar, the Chandelier and The Willows, were some of the piano bars clustered on East Avenue. According to Mullaney, Duke played in a Tatum style and stayed at O'Dells until possibly as late as 1946. During this time he also had a weekly radio show on WSAY.

Duke also played Breaker's near Ontario Beach sometime during the 1940s.

Pepper may have sat in with his band c. 1947 at Squeezer's, a club in downtown Rochester. "Doug Duke," a stage name for Ovidio Fernandez, was Argentinian by birth and came to Rochester in 1922, his mother's hometown, when he was two years old. Duke was the son of a concert violinist father and a vocalist mother.

I think he was a better organist than pianist, because he had more control over his right-hand figurations with the easier action of the organ. He deserves a ton of credit for innovating the Hammond with Leslies, creating a new thing for jazz and spawning a legion of followers. His penchant for using the piano and organ interchangeably to add more color and texture to his playing remains quite unique.

Apparently, there was less of a demand for nightclub entertainment in Rochester in the period after the war ended in September, 1945. Could that be due to families more focused on reuniting, dealing with adjustment issues (post-traumatic stress), etc? Squeezer's resuscitated Duke's career, before which he was inactive and on his heels.

Duke was an important jam session guy at Squeezer's. It's not known at what point he started playing both piano and organ, though it seems he focused more on organ by 1947, when he possibly started his very popular gig at Squeezer's. Duke played Squeezer's 5-6 nights a week. He was the headliner and was packing them in. Jams often took place on the weekend. Joe Strazzeri sat in occasionally at his own club. 

From John Dunlap, piano: "Squeezer's brought in everybody. He had a headliner every week. Joe "Squeezer" Strazzeri was a really good pianist." 

From Leo Petix, trumpet: "Squeezer's was a place to jam at almost every night of the week. Pepper used to stop in there and just get on the 'stand.' He was around town. He was looking to get with a group and get on the road." Joe Strazzeri Sr. ran the club at 420 State St., across the street from the Kodak office. It was a bar and lounge and was open from the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s. 

Squeezer's had a U-shaped bar and there was a doorway connecting the bar area with the dining room. Duke was placed in the bar but close enough to both rooms so he could be heard in both rooms.

Paul Preo about Joe Squeezer's: "It was a small place but it was very popular. Joe was a very nice man. He had a phone booth, but it was inside the building, opposite the bar. When Doug came in and set up his equipment, the only place that seemed logical to put up his two Leslie speakers was next to the phone booth. So he had them piled up, one on top of the other, next to the booth. Nobody gave much thought about it because who wants to call during the music?" Except that Doug Duke, much like Charles Mingus years later, expected an audience to listen attentively and make the music paramount. If he felt the musicians were being disrespected, he'd stop playing. Or, "every once and awhile," said Paul Preo about Duke at Squeezer's, "he'd wait until [patrons] went into the booth, close the door, and he'd play the loudest chord you could think of. People inside, you couldn't believe it! They'd come out blanched white from the sound. . . . It was fun for the rest of us." 

The U.S. Patent for the Duke-a-Tron (Duke's combined piano and Hammond organ with Leslies) was officially approved in 1949. He built the Duke-a-Tron in the dining room at Squeezer's. It had a piano harp built into the Hammond chassis, with two keyboards for the organ and a full set of organ pedals. Sometime at Squeezer's, Duke was building the instrument, part by part in one corner of Squeezer's dining room. The patent issued in August, 1949 refers to the instrument as a "Piano Organ" but Duke and others called it a "Duke-a-Tron."

From Hank Berger, trombone: "He was a mechanical person too. He rebuilt an organ, a Hammond, into what he called a 'Duke-a-Tron.' He had a couple of Leslies. It really had power. It was fantastic, really! Duke played Squeezer's for a long time."

From Chris Melito, trumpet: Duke may have gone to New York between his O'Dell's and Squeezer's gigs. Both Melito and Al Bruno feel that Duke couldn't have played Squeezer's until 1948 at the earliest, and maybe 1949 or 1950, after he left Hampton.

After hearing Duke play a gig in Harlem in 1949, Lionel Hampton added Duke to his group, beginning with an engagement at the Apollo Theater. Duke's playing influenced the entire lineage of jazz organ playing to this day. Milt Buckner, then Hampton's pianist, took up the instrument after Duke left the group in 1950. Buckner in turn influenced Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett, who influenced Jimmy Smith and all organists to follow.

From Paul Preo: "The Hammond that he played, as I recall, had been tweaked up a little bit too. Electronics was not new but it was coming along in spurts. You didn't experiment too much because everything then was vacuum-tube technology." Duke's M-3 Hammond sounded like no other, said Preo: "sharper and harder, approaching the B-3 up to a point. Of course, he almost doubled the output so he could run his Leslies and really blast if he wanted to--and he loved it loud."

The electric organ was first invented in 1934 by Laurens Hammond and sold in 1935. Doug Duke was the father of the jazz organ. He was first musician to play the instrument in a jazz band, as such liberating it from its pipe organ roots as commonly heard in churches, movie theaters and skating rinks. 

Duke's instrumental invention--taking the Hammond M-3, incorporating electronic modifications to boost power and adding Leslie speakers--created jazz's first modern Hammond organ. 

Jack End
Along with Brock and Doug Duke, the third leg of the early 1940s Rochester-musician stool is Jack End. A clarinetist and graduate of Eastman, who led his own band, jammed with the musicians such as Brock and Duke, got back on the faculty of Eastman, and pushed the Eastman envelope to begin to embrace jazz. He was the pivotal, prime mover at Eastman that paved the way for Everett Gates to roll out a jazz curriculum. According to pianist Dick Mullaney, an Eastman graduate, in around 1945 Jack End began jazz studies at Eastman: "Jack End was the fellow who originated and sold Eastman School on jazz studies. They didn't recognize jazz studies until Jack End." End had a small commercial dance band of six pieces that he could expand up to sixteen pieces. He used Sal Sperazza and Ted Betts on trumpets, and Joe Sperazza on drums.

From Fred Remington, piano: End was the intermediary step between no jazz at Eastman and Everett Gates' first bonafide program. President Howard Hanson of Eastman allowed Jack End, an Eastman graduate, to run a jazz band at Eastman. In this way, Hanson indulged him at Eastman. My sense is it wasn't a part of the curriculum but, rather, an outlet. I believe it was End that convinced Eastman to bring Benny Goodman to Eastman for their first jazz concert. I was a huge success. At one point, End's student jazz band played a jazz version of a theme from one of Howard Hanson's symphonies with Hanson in the audience. End wrote an arrangement of it for a performance at Eastman's Kilbourn Hall.

Great Musicians on the Scene in 1945-1947:

Dave Remington, trombone: He may have played as a teen in dance bands around town but left for the Navy in October, 1944, returning in October, 1946. He would have been on the scene in late 1946-1947. Teagarden wanted to take lessons from him! His style was inspired by Teagarden, Lou McGarity and Bill Harris. Remington played in late '46-'47 with Chris Melito in drummer Jerry Santoro's band. According to his cousin Fred Remington, he sat in with Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and said about it, "I finally realized the goal of a lifetime."

Hank Berger, trombone: Berger had a jazz band (he played valve trombone here) from 1938-42 at the Corner House Hotel in Greece. The band was all 18-year-olds. He returned from Air Force in c1947. Berger played the Citadel. According to bassist Lowell Miller, he sounded like an early Carl Fontana. According to Berger, there were three important jazz groups in Rochester right after the war:

1. John Albert. Albert has a bop band, probably the first in Rochester. He played Woody Herman things with six members (2 ts; tb (probably Berger); rhythm section.
2. Hank Berger band. Straight-ahead jazz band until 1951. Joe Romano joined in 1948/49. Romano was a few year younger than Pepper and the same age as bassist Lowell Miller.
3. Dixieland Ramblers. Run by Max McCarthy. Berger, who didn't care for Dixieland, broke up his band in 1951 and joined to run the group. They were based at the Golden Grill in Charlotte on Lake Street, one block from Lake Ontario.

Lowell Miller, bass: Miller played with Joe Nolan's band (non-union) in the 1940s. They played every Friday night at the Immaculate Conception Church in the Third Ward/Plymouth St. He sat in with Gus Mancuso and Joe Mancuso, Joe Romano, and Tommy Acquino (who moved to Detroit). In the 1960s he toured with Al Hirt and Pete Fountain.

Joe Strazzeri, piano
Al Bruno bass (house bassist at Squeezer's)
Barney Mallon, bass
Eddie DeMatteo, bass
Sal Sperazza, trumpet
Sibby Brock, bass. Born as Sebastian Viavatni. A fine bass player, according to Lowell Miller.

What was Everett Gates doing up until 1948? He played viola in the Rochester Symphony while studying for his masters degree at Eastman. Gates also played saxophone and did gigs on occasion.

Two other good non-union bands were led by drummer Bill O'Brien and trumpeter Bob Lang. Both were 14- to 16-piece dance bands that played in the mid-1940s at churches and other social events. Joe Strazzeri played drums in Lang's band in 1943 or 1944.

Dance band musicians who played in the commercial bands of the 30s and 40s:
Syl Novelli, Sax Smith, Gene Zacher and Darrell Gifford led commercial dance bands in the 1930s and 1940s. They performed at proms, balls, nightclubs and country clubs, especially the tony Genesee Valley Club, sometimes for Saturday afternoon dances. Smith played White City in the Windsor Hotel in Summerville. Dances also took place in Long Point Park in the nearby Finger Lakes, mostly in the summer. Carl Dengler led a society band, in the style of Guy Lombardo, at Odenbach in Manitou Beach. The repertoire of these bands ranged from "sweet" music in the Lombardo style to that of Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. The brothers Sam and Russ Musseri were great saxophonists at this time. They played in some of these commercial dance bands, and ultimately in the Glenn Miller Band led by Buddy DeFranco. These bands were successful in Rochester until after the war, when big bands disbanded.

The Elite Club (pronounced Eee-Light):
From Ralph Dickinson, alto sax: "It was a big hall, probably a meeting hall for unions, with a stage and some folding chairs around the side. People mainly came to dance. All of the arrangements were head arrangements we heard other groups play. Bop was just beginning to get started. We tried to do some things like that, not too much: "How High the Moon," because everybody played that, and some of the standard blues figures that the guys could think of to play. We were playing more blues-type of things, kind of a jump band. As far as swinging, I think we were the swingingest thing in town." 

"It was upstairs. West Main Street, at Ford Street, near Broad. The building isn't there any more because of the Inner Loop. It was a black neighborhood. We played for dances. They would charge at the door. I think they did have some "pop," but there was no alcohol. Jimmy 'The Lion' Stewart's band: He was a piano player and the leader. He was a pretty old fellow. Jim 'Smitty' Smith was in the band. He was a trumpet player. I was playing alto. I had just come out of the Army. The bass player was Walter Washington. He was a good bass player. He had been playing years ago with Lucky Millinder. The drummer's name, I think, was Frank Brown. He was kind of old too. Now and then we'd have a guitar player. He had a nickname, "Spoons." Here's the strange thing about this cat: He played good jazz guitar at that particular time--and blues--and he used a dime for a pick. He had a long cigar hanging out of his mouth and he could get off on the guitar real good. You'd think it would bust the strings!"

"[Pepper] wasn't a full member of the group but he'd be there every week. His mother used to come with him all the time. She didn't dance. She'd sit off to the side. It was a little strange but we didn't ostracize her. I don't know if this was out of fear to protect him. This was a black club. He was 15, 16 years old. He was able to play but he didn't play very well. He was only playing soprano at that time. He didn't sound too good, he was just learning. More Dixieland type, at that particular time. He was kind of fumbling to get started. We gave him solos. He was trying. Tell you the truth, I never thought he'd be able to play. Made a fool out of me! As far as I'm concerned, he was a much better baritone player than any of them out there! His ideas were really hip."

"He was very quiet, like a young person that's around older people. He was thin. He stood overly straight, almost like a soldier. He'd just come to play, we'd get through, divvy up the money and he'd go on his way. I'd imagine it was $5 or $6--it wasn't a whole lot. At that time, if you made ten bucks, you'd be rich! I think he got more by listening. He had a good ear. Some of the things we were playing, he'd pick up on easily--at least the lead part of it, beginning figures."

Pepper Adams' Time in Rochester (from Interviews):
It appears that Pepper Adams only took a handful of paying lessons at either Columbia Music or Levis Music. Columbia Music was owned by Morrie Silver, after whom they named Silver Stadium in gratitude for him saving the Red Wings baseball team from bankruptcy. As a widowed school teacher, his mom was pretty short on money. That's one of the reasons they moved back to Detroit. He mostly learned by practicing with older friends, on the bandstand, and from established musicians. One notable teacher was Ellington tenor saxophonist Skippy Williams. Skippy helped Pepper in New York City, when he was in between Rochester and Detroit. Williams only gave Pepper lessons once or twice. Adams' great strides were made after he moved to Detroit. It was like going from the minor leagues to the majors. Pepper immediately fell in with that great clique of Detroit musicians of his generation--Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, Louis Hayes, Yusef Lateef, etc--that changed music forever.

Morrie Silver (from Wikipedia):
In 1937, Silver founded a school, the Columbia Music Store. He later opened a music store that was very successful during the postwar recorded music boom, the store at one time becoming the highest-grossing record store in the United States.

John Albert Letter to Gary Carner (7/15/88):
By 1947, sixteen-year-old Adams had a conception of what he was doing as a soloist, even though he was far from being an accomplished player. Pianist John Albert heard him once in a Rochester club and told me the following:

"He was playing soprano sax. The rhythm section (I don't remember who they were) responded to his playing. He was a good 'time' player and left holes they could fill in. That's what I remember most about his style. He would blow a single note or a phrase and then wait for the rhythm to come to the next change or even go by it, and then he would dig in and catch up, with great time and ideas. This, to me, was different than the other horn men; they seemed to stay on top of the beat and didn't seem to use the rhythm section to their best advantage, or let them have some fun too on the chorus. What I heard that made him different and new was a thinner, biting sound. He played more notes and more interesting melodic flights, and used the rhythm section like Miles Davis."

Chris Melito (trumpet):
Chris Melito and Pepper both took music lessons at Columbia Music Store. Pepper took sax lessons, Melito took trumpet. Pepper's mother dropped him off for lessons and picked him up. The lessons took place in booths at Columbia. Pepper and Chris would wait outside a closed door for their lessons with John Wade. Pepper possibly only went to Columbia for six months or a year. "I remember him as being very enthusiastic about music, really a joyful kid," said Melito. "Whereas most kids start taking off in music and they become timid in their approach to things, he came across as being more, 'Well, I can do it, I'm gonna do it, and here it is!' He was one of the very few kids who played without squeaking too much." He may have started first on a C-Melody saxophone.

Melito was hired at the Columbia Music Store so he could listen to the records. Pepper followed a year or so later. Pepper, according to Melito, was "very thin and fragile. He was just a guy who was enthused about music and wanted to learn the instrument. He was never disrespectful. In his language, it wasn't dirty or anything like that."

Regarding Pepper's sound, approach and technique:
He wasn't tentative or worried about mistakes, according to Melito. He just went for it with a measure of confidence.

About Rochester race relations:
"I'm not saying there was a lot of love. It was tempered a bit, but we got along."

"There were three or four music stores in the city that gave music lessons for a dollar. You rented a horn from them and, eventually, someone would come around and try to sell you the thing. A lot of kids started off that way, and later either went on to Eastman or private lessons. At public school you usually got the odd instruments, like tuba or bassoon, that no one else wanted," not tenor sax, alto, or trumpet. "I don't remember school bands having soprano saxophone." That's why it's likely that Pepper rented and later bought his soprano.

Lowell Miller, Bassist, About the Rochester Scene:
"When I was a kid, I had the full run of the Eastman School of Music. I could walk from high school, take a bow and a resin bag, walk up to Eastman, grab a bass off the wall--they had all these school instruments--and just play in any of the millions of rehearsal orchestras they had going on. So, I was able to get a free concert training. When I was thirteen, I was playing jobs and taking lessons at fifty cents a lesson from all these whizzbangs that were with Glenn Miller's band and in the Service. . . We were just kids and we had that type of training. When jazz came on the scene, we had all sorts of technique. It was a great place to grow up. There were some great players around here: The Mancusos (Gus and Joe), [pianist Tommy] Acquino, Herbie Brock, Sibby Brock. Joe Romano was a giant here. I had a hell of a background because of that. It seemed like it was exploding with people, and then we had the influence of the Eastman guys coming in and out all the time. There wasn't much jazz being played at Eastman. In fact, if you did that, you were some kind of scumbag." It was in this kind of environment that clarinetist Jack End worked to establish a presence for jazz at the Eastman School.

Raymond Murphy:
Murphy and Adams listened to standard Dixieland type things, the Condon Gang, Pee Wee Russell, Commodore Recordings, Coleman Hawkins. Pepper had an "all-encompassing interest in jazz. "He was serious about it from the word 'go.'"

When they first met at Columbia Music Store in the summer of 1944 on Clinton Avenue in downtown Rochester, Murphy was eighteen years old, in between his senior year of high school and his first year of college at the University of Rochester. He was working as a mail order clerk there. Pepper, thirteen, didn't know that much about jazz at the time.

Post-1947 or Later Information about the Rochester Scene:

1. The Ridge Crest, on Ridge Road, stated around 1954. It was a commercial nightclub. Billie Holiday played there.
2. The Pythodd was also started around this time. It was at Clarissa and Troup. happened-pythodd-club/28939711/
3. Roy McCurdy was from Rochester. Joe Romano also.
4. Sal Nistico was from Syracuse but played a lot in Rochester.
5. Top of the Plaza ran in the 1970s at Midtown Plaza.
6. Spencer Walker, a bass player, possibly played the Pythodd before Ron Carter. 
7. Frank Strazzeri, piano.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

William Paterson University and the Influence of Bob Wilber

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved

I woke up today thinking about the William Paterson University lecture I'm giving on Monday, October 19 for David Demsey's class. I've spoken there once before but what can I do that's new and different? William Paterson's students are among the best in the U.S. Its graduates include Alexis Cole and Eric Alexander, to name just two. Thad Jones first established Paterson's program, and subsequent directors include Rufus Reid, James Williams and Mulgrew Miller. That should give you some indication of the program's excellence. Yes, I'd like to do something different for those kids, to try to inspire them to give me some feedback on Pepper so I can learn from them.

At first, it occurred to me that it's still a little strange that so few have heard Pepper's playing. I thought maybe I'd start with the introduction to Charles Mingus' "Moanin'" to remind them that they probably have already heard Pepper, though they might not know it? Pepper's plaintive, iconic intro is undoubtably the most famous, widely heard thing he's ever done. It's been used as theme music on radio and in films such as Bowling for Columbine and Jerry Seinfeld: Comedian.

Since I'm busy writing Pepper's biography, I also thought maybe I could read them part of my Prologue, to share some of my work and use it as a way to introduce Pepper's life and as an organizing principle for the lecture. I could pick a few tunes that I reference, such as Pepper's brilliant performance and arrangement of "That's All" (from Reflectory). I could also play videos of Pepper on "My Centennial," to show him at his time of crisis while edging out of Thad-Mel, and Pepper's triumphant performance on the Grammy Awards telecast.

Then I started listening to some private material from the early '80s, when he played so freely, and, lastly, "Chant" and "Cecile" from Live at the Half Note, just to hear his wonderful sound and that wonderful band. It's been quite a morning of listening! I'm still not sure what I'll pick, but, unlike my usual approach, which is pretty scripted, I think I'll shed the teleprompter and keep the lecture very loose so I can give the students as much space as possible to respond to the music.

Over the last few days I've been thinking a lot about Bob Wilber. I originally thought he came to study at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in the Fall of 1946 but I was mistaken. It was actually a year earlier, when Pepper was 14 and in Ninth Grade. Wilber was a huge influence on Pepper and his three-man jazz clique of woodshedding musicians--Pepper, Raymond Murphy and John Huggler--who every weekend got together to play along to the latest Commodores and Blue Notes. 

Pepper met Wilber at the Pied Piper (later renamed the Cafe Bohemia) in Greenwich Village sometime in the summer of 1945. Pepper traveled down from Rochester with his mother to hear Max Kaminsky. Wilber told Pepper at the gig that he'd be coming to Eastman to study that coming Fall. It turns out that Wilber visited with Pepper all the time that semester, staying for dinner and listening to records. Wilber would also sit in with Pepper's practicing threesome every weekend that entire Fall until Wilber quit the program to move to New York City to study and live with Sidney Bechet. (See this great photo of Wilber and Bechet in 1947 at Jimmy Ryan's.)

To give you an indication of how good Wilber was at age 17, just a year after he split Eastman he was recording with Bechet in New York. Wilber has always had tremendous facility on the alto, soprano and clarinet. He blew into Rochester for little more than four months but no doubt shaped Pepper. At that time, Adams was a struggling 14-year-old instrumentalist. Wilber, on the other hand, was already a formed player whose playing, even then, exhibited a playfulness and joyousness along with tremendous momendum and drive. His solos always swung hard, built up logically and exhibited a lot of heat. Adams had never been around a wind player of that quality on a consistent basis for many months in a row and it had to have rubbed off on him as a great example of how to play jazz. I believe that Wilber's example spurred Pepper to continue to develop, and it paved the way for him to improve throughout 1946 and 1947 by playing in the working band at Rochester's Elite Club. 

I don't know if Bob Wilber instructed Pepper to work on specific things or not but I wrote this email to Wilber's wife, Pug Horton, to see if I could learn more from them about that time:

Hi Pug: I got your email from Michael Steinman. I'm Pepper Adams' biographer. I'm currently writing Pepper's biography, the second of two books I'm doing on Pepper. My research this summer has me very involved with the early jazz history of Rochester NY (pre-1948). It's becoming quite clear to me, despite Bob's modesty, that Bob was the single most important influence on Pepper before he moved to Detroit. After all, they practiced together every week for four months in the Fall of 1945. Pepper was a struggling clarinetist at 14-15 and Bob was 18 and very advanced. If he can remember anything they played together with John Huggler and Raymond Murphy, besides playing along to records, I'd like to include that in the book. Perhaps Bob suggested things for Pepper to practice? Certain techniques, etudes, scales, breathing advice, whatever? Please ask him for me?

I'm also writing because I interviewed Bob in 1988 at the Sticky Wicket. He told me he had for a while a saxophone quartet rehearsal band in NYC that he was writing charts for that included Pepper, him, someone I can't remember on tenor, and an alto player whose first name began with Rudy but whose last name he couldn't remember. Please ask Bob if it was Rudy Powell and whether any tapes exist of these rehearsals?

Gary Carner

Hopefully I'll hear back soon. In the meantime, check out Wilber's autobiography, Music Was Not Enough, and his performance at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival with the great Bill Charlap Trio. Wilber still sounds great at age 85!:

                                          (Bob Wilber)