Monday, December 2, 2019

Progress with the Biography


Much of my free time in November was consumed by proofreading
and polishing the galleys of Chapters 1-3 of my Pepper Adams
biography. Chapter 1 is currently being reviewed by two readers, after
having been read by another. Chapters 2-3 are following the same
process. Obviously, the more feedback I get, the stronger the book
becomes. The Prologue has already been put to bed.

Each chapter has an epigraph, which helps me underscore why I chose
each chapter title. The book’s central epigraph, essentially my lead
argument, is this:

How many musicians out
there are really different?


I’ve begun hunting for an ebook publisher. Nothing tangible yet, but
I’ve made progress nonetheless.

As for the second half of the biography, to be published in 2021,
Chapters 4-6, 8 and 10 are done. Chapter 7 is in progress, about a
third finished. 9 remains as a major task, though I have a ton of notes. 

Chapters 7-10 will follow this basic format:

Chapter 7:
  1. Solos with Thad/Mel
  2. Solos as a single, 1963-1977
  3. Solos as a sideman, 1963-1977

Chapter 8:
  1.  Marriage proposal; Girlfriend #1
  2. Girlfriend #2
  3. New York loft scene
  4. Girlfriend #3

Chapter 9:
  1. Racial relations
       2.   Journeyman, original poem
       3.   Drugs/Bobby Timmons/Elvin Jones
       4.   Interlude: Bohemian New York in the Fifties
  1. Byrd/Adams
  2. Goodman, Monk, Mingus
  3. Kenton, West Coast Scene, early New York experiences

Chapter 10:
  1. Accolades
  2. Six reasons why Adams didn’t gain popularity
  3. Conclusion

The process of working through all of my taped interviews was very
well worth it. I was able to add some really great excerpts to the book:
Lew Tabackin, for example, discussing the bleak 1960s, the difference
between Thad and Duke Pearson as bandleaders, and why Thad and
Mel were crazy to put their band in the hands of Keiko Jones for the ill-
fated 1968 trip to Japan that almost finished off the orchestra. 

My Mel Lewis interview was equally good. What a rich trove of information
about the intricacies of Thad/Mel and the Stan Kenton band. Some very
important information also came from the two physicians who owned
Uptown Records, Pepper’s last record label. They had much to say about
his final illness, and the role they played when advising him about his
health. Many other quotes were added from other interviewees; subtle but
important comments that added depth to my existing text.

My biggest discovery, however, wasn’t testimony from an interview, as
valuable as they are to the project. The most startling find was the Norma
Desmond-like letter (remember the film Sunset Boulevard?) that Pepper’s
mother wrote to her son when he moved out of her house in late 1955. It
really put her character into perspective. Previously, I had all these friends
of Pepper’s commenting about her, but nothing at all from her in her voice.
This is the only letter that exists written by her, and it’s quite telling that
Pepper would save it. 

Next to that, my interview with Bob Cornfoot was very important. It made me
completely revise when Pepper moved back to Detroit in 1947, and when he
began working at Al’s Record Mart. It necessitated a complete revision of
Pepper’s chronology from late 1953 to the end of 1955, plus changing some
language in my text.

One of the enormous benefits of working through all the interviews yet again
is correcting errors, and discovering so many new facts about where and what
Adams did during his lifetime. Accordingly, many changes have been made
to Pepper Adams’ chronology:
I expect the updates to be posted soon.

I’ve organized all of my remaining Pepper materials for donation to William
Paterson University. Pepper’s recordings and other materials that belong to
the estate are still in my possession. It looks like it will be 2020 before I
deliver the first batch of goods. Then, it's up to the university to make room
for the rest of it.

I’ve corresponded with Chick Corea, asking him to consider writing a foreword
to the book. I was pleased that he bought a copy of Joy Road. Any suggestions
about who else I should contact for a foreword?