Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Pepper Biography Almost Done


April has come and gone, seemingly in a flash, and I’m still housebound. 
Georgia is beginning to relax its quarantine restrictions but I’m not ready 
to emerge. And why should I? The local library is still closed, among other 
public spaces. Does COVID vanish just because a governor opens up 

During my house arrest I’ve cleaned out my basement. It’s now cleaner 
than it has ever been. And I’ve dug out many of my CDs and DVDs that 
were stuck down there in boxes. I now have a lot more music to hear. As 
for my Pepper Adams biography, I just finished Chapter Eight and sent it 
off to three readers for their evaluation. It was the second-to-last chapter 
that I needed to write before I’m completely finished.

I say “finished,” knowing of course that my handful of trusty readers will 
continue to propose additions and corrections. I’m still awaiting comments, 
in fact, from my last three readers regarding 19301955, the first half of 
the book. Their last comments will likely come early this summer. With that 
in mind, I anticipate a September publication date.

As for the very last chapter I still need to write, it’s already about 25% done 
and I have a ton of notes. Although I do hope to be done with it by summer, 
this last one covers 1956-1963. There's a lot to cover: Byrd-Adams, drugs, 
Bobby Timmons, Elvin, Mingus, Monk, Kenton, etc. 

Regarding the first half of the bio, some nice advance-praise blurbs have 
come in already: 

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Eight:

Adams’s very first European gig as a touring soloist took place in mid-

December, 1969, following the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra’s second tour of 
Europe. After working with the big band in London, Adams worked for two weeks 
at Montmartre in Copenhagen with the house rhythm section of (American 
pianist) Kenny Drew, Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson and Ole Streenberg. Pepper 
“was a real gentleman,” said Pederson. “He was one of those guys who didn’t come 
over, like, ‘Here I am. I come from the States, so everything I say has got to be 
right.’ In those days, it could be a little bit like that but he wasn’t like that at all.”
After a subsequent gig in Aarhus, on January 13, 1970 Adams flew to Faro, 
Portugal to visit with the bartender David X. Sharpe, his old friend from New York. 
Sharpe had relocated to this picturesque coastal city to open the restaurant Godot’s. 
Adams played a week at his establishment, then worked another week in Sweden 
before returning to New York. It’s not known who Adams played with during that 
week in Southern Portugal but “a real jazz man,” said Eddie Locke, “will play his
 instrument no matter what”:

He’s gonna play. He’s not gonna make an excuse for not playing by saying, 
“Something is going wrong, I can’t play.” If you love it so much, it doesn’t 
make any difference. No dollars, bad musicians, good musicians, mediocre 
musicians: You’re gonna blow! Pepper just happened to also be a great player. 
But he was a real jazz man. . . . A real jazz man is rare. That’s a lifestyle. 
That’s not just going to school. And that’s what Pepper was about. In Detroit, 
you played in the joints: slop jobs in those old, funky places. That’s a jazz man. 
He wasn’t trying to play in Carnegie Hall every night. He was just going to 
play some music because he loved to play. . . . People wanted to play with him 
because he was a jazz man.  . . . I don’t care who he was playing with. He’s 
gonna sound good because he’s gonna blow! He doesn’t give a shit about the 
other cats. If they play the wrong change, he’ll play the wrong one. That’s a 
true jazz musician. Bird was like that. Coleman Hawkins was like that. I put 
him in some heavy company there but that’s what I’m talking about.