Sunday, May 2, 2021

Pepper Doings, April 2021

 
















Before signing off on Chapter Three, my account of

Adams’s experience in the US Army, I decided to send

my final draft to a reader for his feedback. Although this

is one of my shortest chapters, I think I’ve been dealing

with this material for such a long time that perhaps I’ve

lost some perspective. Hopefully he’ll agree that it’s in

OK shape and, apart from some minor changes, I can

finally put it to bed.


I started a demanding full-time job five weeks ago and

my progress on the book has been slowed down. I still

think I’m on track to publish in September, but the most

important thing is to ensure that it’s in the best shape

that I can muster.


I’m excited to report that a very significant cache of

Pepper tapes and interviews have recently been trans-

ferred to a producer/musician who is restoring them,

releasing some of it to the public, and making all of it

available to me for study. Although I can’t yet reveal

the source of the material or its newfound recipient,

I’ve been aware of the collection for over thirty years

and am so excited that I’ll soon have a chance to

analyze the material and consider it for inclusion in

the biography. Typically, all of Pepper’s interviews

yield gems, so it’s likely that I’ll discover something

new for the book. 


The Adams discography has been updated with new

discoveries: https://www.pepperadams.com/JoyRoad/DiscoUpdates.pdf 


Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with the

eminent blogger Michael Steinman. He’s perhaps the

first person who really understands what I’ve tried to

do with the narrative structure of the biography, and

who has the breadth of knowledge about the subject

to truly grasp how I tried to diverge from the typical birth-

to-grave, tragedy or romance, cliched approach. After

our call, he wrote this wonderful blurb that I’ll be using

as advance praise

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


Most jazz biographies are predictable chronologies of gigs

and recordings, friendships and rivalries, kindness and cruelty.

We know how they start; we know how they end. Carner’s

admiring multi-dimensional portrait of Pepper Adams is a

delightful corrective. Irresistibly, it floats from story to story.

I couldn't wait to find out what happens next. Even if readers

know Pepper only as a bracing, lovely sound, before we are

ten pages in we are happily encountering him as a fully-

rounded person, reading Yeats, eating ribs, impatient with

cliche, searching and finding wherever he goes. It takes lung

power to play the baritone saxophone: this biography has the

breath of life.   

 

Michael Steinman

Author, Jazz Lives blog

 


Next weekend I’ll get a jump on Chapter Four corrections.

Happy springtime. 



Sunday, April 4, 2021

Audiobook Anyone?

 









After a year of pleading, I finally acquired five tunes from

Adams’s November 16, 1985 gig from the Bassment (yes,

that’s the correct spelling) in Saskatoon, Canada. Already

deep into his cancer, Adams sounds tremendous. That

further suggests to me that he played superbly throughout

at least February, 1986, after which his illness and

medical treatments appreciably wore him down. Unfortunately,

there are precious few Adams audience recordings after that

time, though the few that exist suggest a lessening of his

powers in his last eight months of life.


Earlier in the month, I decided to pour through one last box of

notes, sorted as “Analysis,” that I had been saving. I wondered

if I made any observations that might be germane to the

biography, whether overtly or even obliquely. I turned out that,

yes, I had a few scraps of paper with notes on them that I could

actually use. Some regarded comments I scribbled about certain

recordings. I also discovered at long last three missing pages from

my Adams interview transcript in which he talks about his fondness

for Francis Poulenc and William Walton. I was able to add that, as

well as some notes about the diminished scale and Clark Terry’s

comment to me about Ellington’s “Jack the Bear” and how that’s

the likely source for Pepper's composing for bass and baritone as

two voices. 


Lastly, I received from one of my final readers a few minor corrections

regarding the biography's front matter. I’m awaiting his critique of

Chapters 1-4 (1930-1955), plus another reader’s critique of Chapters

5-12 (1956-1986). Work still continues on the book’s directory of 450

tunes. It’s really incredible to have a kind of “Best of” collection all in

one place, without having to scramble for tracks on an LP, cassette, or

CD. I think you’re going to be amazed by this addition to the eBook.

I’m still on track for a September, 2021 release.  


To that aim, in the last week I tightened up my Prologue and first

chapter with some editorial improvements. I’ve also decided (I had

forgotten about it) to produce an audiobook version of the biography.

Perhaps that will take away some of the sting of it only at first being

released as an eBook? Can anyone advise me on how to go about

this? Is iTunes or Amazon the preferred vehicle? Any idea on pricing? 


I’ve got some upcoming Zoom lectures at Ball State University, the

University of Wisconsin, Appalachian State, and the University of

Missouri. If any are recorded, I may share them at pepperadams.com.

All the best!


 


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.”