Sunday, February 28, 2021

Homestretch

 









I’m in the homestretch before beginning to format the eBook. I only have two more readers remaining. The esteemed Brian Priestley just sent me about forty corrections regarding my second half of the bio. Although most are typos, a few are very astute historical corrections, such as the date Birdland stopped promoting jazz and identifying Kenton’s “Intermission Riff.” I'm awaiting one more critique, then I pass it on to my penultimate reader. Once done with any corrections, it’s passed to my final reader to double-check I didn’t screw up anything.


Priestley mentioned that my reverse chronology was a little hard to follow in Ch. 5. I’ve since reconfigured the chapter, subdividing it into two, and moving some of the text to another chapter. 


My webmaster is building a 450-tune directory for the final eBook. Half the tunes have never been heard; some amazing music. That’s hundreds of new Pepper Adams, mostly from audience recordings. About this, see: https://www.pepperadams.com/Reflectory/index.html



 


Monday, February 1, 2021

Reflectory due in September

 







The improved hi-def version of Pete Lukas’s Reflectory book cover has been

finished and it looks great. Other last-minute details are shaping up before

publication of my 400-page Adams biography. I’ve gone through a final editing

pass of Chapters 1-3, with 4 awaiting. After that’s done, “Ascent,” the first half

of the biography will be done, though I’ll likely read it one last time as a hard

copy. 


I’m awaiting one reader’s comments, who will soon be starting his look at my

second half. Then I’ll  incorporate his recommendations, send it off to another

reader, then read through them twice before printing it as a hard copy and

making my absolutely final pass.


Two other things need to be done before publication. First, I have to embed

all the music links in the text. Before they’re active, they have to be posted at

pepperadams.com

in a directory, only available to future purchasers of the book. Lastly, the text

needs to be formatted as per Lulu’s instructions to produce their version of an

eBook. A summer or September publication date is starting to look likely. 


Here’s some advance praise:

https://www.pepperadams.com/Reflectory/AdvancePraise.pdf

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Blowin' Hot and Cool

 




© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.


Happy New Year everybody! We made it through 2020. A few days ago, on

New Year’s Eve, I sent my final draft of the first part of the Adams bio to two

readers for final comments and edits. After emailing them, in a rush of excite-

ment, I commanded my new Amazon Echo to play Pepper Adams, and, lo

and behold, the first tune it played was “Time on My Hands.” How prophetic!


In recognition of finally concluding my work on the biography, last week I de-

cided, as a kind of rite of passage, to finally read John Gennari’s exhaustive

study of jazz criticism that he published in 2005. I figured it’s the least I could

do, considering all the time he spent reviewing my Adams manuscript. If

nothing else, I thought, I could catch up on various topics, such as gender,

black, and literary studies, or the vicissitudes of the various culture wars, that

have ensued since I walked away from academia in the nineties. Maybe, too,

I could use snippets here and there as a clever way to do some fact-checking

on my bio, or even buttress some of my commentary with a few of his pithy

quotes? 


I say pithy because I’ve known John since around 1990, when I invited him to

write an article on the history of jazz criticism for an anthology of articles about

jazz literature I was editing for the Black American Literature Forum. Pithy, also,

because his keen intellect, expansive knowledge of jazz and American culture,

and wonderful prose style, I felt, was bound to reveal some clever turns of

phrase I could grab, or interesting perspectives to reconsider, for my bio at the

eleventh hour. 


Since the publication of his terrific article, Gennari spent the next fifteen years

researching the field, reading widely, and writing about his many observations.

The result is Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics, one of the most

important books ever written about jazz. Jazz fans love to talk about “desert

island records,” the handful of indispensable recordings they would want with

them if they got marooned on a desert island a la Tom Hanks in Cast Away,

Similarly, Gennari’s book is definitely one of a handful of books that I’d want

with me if I was washed up somewhere. I recommend it to anyone who wants

a much fuller appreciation of the art form.


What Gennari has achieved is no less than a dazzling literature review of

jazz’s history, but as seen through the writings of many of its most distinguish-

ed English-language commentators. So many of the early jazz histories that

he discusses and comprised my very large and now defunct jazz library (that

I donated to Georgia State University) are books I’ve never had a chance to

read. Gennari summarizes each work with depth, showing how they in-

fluenced jazz discourse, commerce, and subsequent generations of writers.


Written with wit, unprecedented erudition, and an impressive command of the

subject, I was blown away by its breadth. To his credit, this monumental book

is not a history of jazz’s recordings or musicians per se, though the author

discusses many. Instead, unlike all other studies of jazz, he has moved the

focus from musicians to, as he writes, “the channels of distribution to make a

less static model of jazz.” In this manner he discusses how jazz critics served

as middle-men arbiters between the musicians and their audience, and he

analyzes their many sectarian arguments and how they influenced the history

of the music, all the while bringing to bear his deep understanding of gender,

literary, political/historical, and American cultural studies. 


Thumbing through the book, it’s amazing how much ground Gennari covers,

and it’s clear why he needed fifteen years to finish his exhaustive study.

There’s just nothing like it. Here’s someone who has listened widely, thought

deeply, and probably read more thoroughly about jazz than anyone before or

since. With his singular focus, he’s certainly a man after my own heart.


As a biographer, I greatly enjoyed all of the biographical portraits in the book.

Some, such as the ones about Leonard Feather and John Hammond, for

example, are rendered at considerable length and crafted with tremendous

grace. In the great Whitney Balliett tradition, they give the book a real sense

of immediacy, and nicely counterbalance some of his more weighty intellectual

forays. Further, they served as a source of nostalgia for me, rekindling my past

associations with a number of prominent jazz writers, most notably Martin

Williams, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern, Gary Giddins, Stanley Crouch, and

especially Albert Goldman, but also others I’ve come in contact with over the

years, such as Barry Ulanov, John Szwed, Bob Blumenthal, and Francis Davis.

It made me recall the time John Hammond popped in one day as a guest of

John Lewis’s, who was teaching the jazz history survey class I took at City

College of New York in the early 1980s. It also rekindled my memory of the

only experience I had with Nat Hentoff, when I needed to get his permission to

republish a piece he wrote on Miles Davis. How cranky and miserable a person

I felt he was; what a difficult shit, I was left thinking.


In Gennari’s description about record collectors’ zeal for hunting down obscure

recordings, I remembered those times in my teens when I took hour-long bus

rides from the northern New Jersey suburbs to the Port Authority bus station,

then walked to 42nd Street to comb record stores for obscure blues records

recorded by Arhoolie, Delmark, and other independent labels. In the 1970s,

42nd Street was really dicey. I always walked the streets really quickly and

moved with a palpable unease until I reached my destination.  


In the end, yes, Gennari’s book did help me ground some of the comments I

made in Reflectory, my forthcoming Adams bio. I added a few new quotes to

further contextualize my points, some regarding “The White Negro,” and how

the rock/youth culture affected jazz after Pepper Adams moved to New York

City.


As I get my ideas together for a six-week jazz history class for college edu-

cated Georgian adults, I wonder how Gennari’s book will inform me. The class,

“Jazz Lives,” borrows its title from Michael Steinman’s blog, in which he says

that “lives” is both a verb and a noun. Will I lean towards the deification of four

or five jazz figures I’m covering? Will I present portraits of their lives? Maybe I

will come up with my own synthesis? I’m not sure, though the class begins on

January 13. One thing that still sings for me, and will serve as a kind of mantra

for the class, is this from Blowin’ Hot: “Because jazz demands that musicians

find their own sound and stamp their performances with a singular individuality,

those who succeed in music tend to be distinctive, singular individuals.”