Sunday, December 3, 2017

Bird and Herbie

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and that you are anticipating a great Christmas season and new year. In the last few weeks one of my readers suggested that I open my Pepper Adams biography with the story of when Pepper heard Bird at Detroit's Mirror Ballroom in 1949. I end the opening section of Ch 1 with it, in a way building to it. He felt that, because it's about Bird, it would create far greater interest among readers than what I have now. Back to the drawing board, as they say.

I've been rereading the very fine biographical primer The Biographer's Art, written by Milton Lomask. One of the things he recommends is for an author to conceive of an ending well in advance, then work your way there as a destination. I'm toying with ending my biography with Pepper's appearance on the Grammy Awards telecast. It seems to me that the way the New York chapter of NARAS rallied behind Pepper when his appearance on the show was threatened with cancellation is a metaphor for much that occurred in New York when Adams got ill. Maybe I don't need to worry that much about the ending? The way the book is set up, the second section of the book (analysis) follows mine. Is it perhaps more appropriate to have John Vana's work summarize the entire book?

Over the last few weeks I also came across this great piece about Herbie Hancock:
Hancock discusses how he joined the ByrdAdams Quintet. Here's his only mention of Pepper:

"In December of 1960, a couple of months after the Coleman Hawkins gig, I got a call from John Cort, the owner of the Birdhouse, a small club in a second-floor walkup on Dearborn Street, on the North Side. ‘Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams are playing in Milwaukee this weekend,’ he told me. ‘You want to play with them?’ "‘Are you kidding?’ I said. ‘Yeah, I want to play with them!’ I couldn’t believe it – I’d just been invited to gig with one of the best jazz trumpeters around. Donald Byrd was a veteran of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and he’d earned a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He’d performed with many of the jazz greats over the years, including John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, and in 1958 he’d started a quintet with the baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. That was the group I was being invited to play with."

This piece is the most in-depth one I've read about Hancock and his "discovery" by Donald Byrd. It turns out that John Cort deserves much of the credit for recommending Hancock to Byrd.

One thing that has always surprised me is how little Pepper Adams is mentioned by Hancock over the years. I know that Byrd is the one who met with Hancock's mother and assured her that young Herbie would be fine living with Byrd in New York once the band left Chicago. With that in mind, it seems likely that Pepper didn't have the same degree of responsibility for Hancock as Byrd. Still, you would think that Herbie would have absorbed some influences from Adams, perhaps his harmonic usage? It sure would be fascinating to know what kind of conversations the two of them had during the year that Herbie was in the Byrd-Adams Quintet.