Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pepper Adams Interviews

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

This month hasn't gone as expected. I developed a case of eye strain from my previous months of writing and editing on my computer. Because of that, I've had to stay away from my manuscript and laptop, and instead fashion other tasks that still allowed me to move ahead with the biography. One of the most important things I've gotten done in September was listening to interviews that Adams did on the radio and in private. Over the years, I've been able to collect these gems:

Peter Clayton: BBC
Alan Stevens: BBC
Alfie Nilsson: Malmo radio
Ted O'Reilly: CJKT, Toronto
Len Dobbin: Montreal radio
Ben Sidran: NPR
Albert Goldman: private interviews
John Reid: private interview

The plan has always been to post some of them at so you can hear Adams speak about his life. While a few are posted there already, technology has changed and it's necessary to use different software and update the site. That's already in the works. Stay tuned for updates.

Besides the fact that I'm taking a necessary break from writing the biography, the main reason I've been working through these interviews is because Adams occassionally says things that were not covered in my interviews with him nor exist anywhere else in print. I've found that some of his comments not only add to the historical record but sometimes alter the way I have written about parts of his early life. 

Although some of these interviews are more entertaining in nature and mostly feature commercial recordings that Adams did throughout his life, those done by John Reid, Al Goldman and Ted O'Reilly are especially poignant. Reid's brief interview was done in Calgary after a gig in August, 1985. Adams was very blunt in his comments about critics, one of his pet peeves. At that time, already quite ill, Adams was far more direct than usual. Speaking privately after hours, he wasn't constrained by the same degree of politeness that he would convey in a radio interview. 

The same holds true to a certain degree with the private interviews done with Al Goldman. I have two of them. The first was done between sets at the Half Note in New York on September 10, 1971. Goldman, at that time a big Elvin Jones and Zoot Sims fan, was just getting to know Adams. 

The far more significant Goldman interview was done on June 19, 1975. Goldman drove from Manhattan to Adams' home in Canarsie, Brooklyn to conduct an extensive interview over several hours for a feature piece that he was writing about Adams for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Ultimately, the piece was published in Esquire due to the fact that Goldman's editor at the Times left and the piece was orphaned. This is a dazzling few hours, certainly the most in-depth and fascinating interview of the bunch: two brilliant minds ranging over many topics in great length. I'm very excited to post it soon.

Albert Goldman was a brilliant man and quite a controversial figure in the 1980s and '90s, ultimately dying of a heart attack on an airplane flight to Europe. His obituary: 

He left his tenured English professorship at Columbia University to write several best-selling biographies on Lenny Bruce, Elvis Presley and John Lennon. While his work was denounced by some as sensational (see and, I interviewed him several times about his experiences with Pepper Adams. I always found him to be insightful, provocative, very encouraging to me in my early years of the work, and always on target with his assessments about Adams' life and music. All this comes through in his Adams interview. His profound admiration and respect for Pepper Adams is evident throughout their conversation.

The O'Reilly interviews, too, are extremely insightful because O'Reilly, like Goldman, is an adept interviewer who asks probing questions. I have two O'Reilly radio shows for sure, and possibly a third that I haven't heard in years.