Sunday, September 5, 2021

Pepper Adams Biography is Finished!


I’m thrilled to report that the Pepper Adams biography 

is now officially done! It’s quite a moment for me, after

37 years of work and a particularly grueling stretch

the last four years. I just spent the last eight hours

today proofing the first half, adding captions to photos, 

checking music links, and wrapping it up. This after

doing the same yesterday to the second half. 

The manuscript has been sent to my trusted webmaster,

Dan Olson, who is finishing the formatting before he

submits it to Lulu for processing. I’m not sure how much

time they’ll need before they ask us to sign off on it before

publication, but I’m hopeful that it can be released before

month’s end. 

Here’s the complete Advance Praise page:

Advance Praise for Reflectory





Gary Carner’s deep and painstaking research into the life and music

of Pepper Adams, coupled with his sure feel for this underappreciated

jazzman’s complex personality, has yielded an absorbing biography

that also reveals much about the jazz life writ large. Carner’s nimble

narrative captures Adams as a man of reserve and sensitivity thrown

into the always bracing, sometimes exasperating tumult of jazz’s post-

bop Detroit-to-New York vector. Reflectory is jazz history of the first rank.

John Gennari

Author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics



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

ower to play the baritone saxophone: this biography has the breath of


Michael Steinman

Author, Jazz Lives blog



Gary Carner has been stalking the life, music, and legacy of the brilliant

baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams (1930-86) with an Ahab-like

obsessiveness for 37 years. The great news for the rest of us is that Carner

has landed his whale. Reflectoryis a meticulously researched and insightful biography of one of the defining

modern jazz musicians of his era and one of the key products of Detroit’s post-

war bebop explosion. We need more books like this in jazz historiography and

more authors willing to dig this deeply.

Mark Stryker

Author of Jazz from Detroit 


This comprehensive and insightful study of a major music master fills a yawning

gap in the writing on Detroit’s jazz scene in its heyday. Even within a constellation

of huge talents, Pepper Adams shone with his own distinctive light.

Mark Slobin

Author of Motor City Music: A Detroiter Looks Back





Pepper Adams was a heartbreakingly great musician who never got the love from

the jazz press that he deserved, which, in a way, makes him even more important in

the history of the music because it represents an experience that happens all too

often and places Pepper firmly at the heart of the jazz life.  As Johnny Griffin once

said, “Jazz is music made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite

of conditions.” But to limit Pepper to the jazz life would be a mistake. He was a man

of literature and culture, a great reader and thinker, as were many of his heroes,

notably Charlie Parker, and Gary Carner’s loving tribute to him finally delivers some

justice to the man and to the whole range and span of his too short and underappreciated

but brilliant career.

Ben Sidran

Author of Talking Jazz: An Oral History and There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream



Gary Carner’s biography about Pepper Adams honors one of America’s great musicians.

It is a joy to read and reread, and worth waiting for all these years. Having known and

worked with Pepper from 1955 until he left us, reading this biography makes you feel

that you are there with him. His humor, wit, and devotion to music are all written about

in a way that Pepper himself would have loved. Gary Carner has kept this story real.

David Amram

Author of Vibrations: The Adventures and Musical Times of David Amram 


Pepper Adams was a consummate performer on the unwieldy baritone sax. Perhaps

he was insufficiently valued by fans of the music, but never by fellow musicians.

The dedicated research of Gary Carner has uncovered a huge amount of detail about

his life, documenting his opinions and his recordings, both official and unofficial.

Brian Priestley 

Author of Mingus: A Critical Biography and Chasin’ The Bird: The Life and Legacy

of Charlie Parker

Author Gary Carner must be commended for dedicating much of his life to

documenting the legacy of the great baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. Adams was

a major contributor to the sub-genre of jazz known as hard bop and his many

influential recordings pulsate with excitement and originality. Reflectory: The Life

and Music of Pepper Adams represents a monumental effort to examine every aspect

of Adams’s career and the research that has gone into it was carried out in a manner

suggesting that no stone has been left unturned. This book exemplifies the best in jazz


  Noal Cohen

Co-author of Rat Race Blues: The Musical Life of Gigi Gryce

Reflectory: The Life and Music of Pepper Adams is het overtuigende portret van een

ernstig onderschatte jazzgrootheid. Gary Carner’s indrukwekkende levenswerk

(decennialange research, inclusief 250 interviews) heeft geresulteerd in een uitgebreide

biografie die fascinerende lectuur vormt.Reflectory: The Life and Music of Pepper Adams is the persuasive portrait of a seriously underrated jazz giant. Gary Carner’s impressive

work of a lifetime (decades of research, including 250 interviews) has resulted in an

extensive biography that makes for fascinating reading. 

Bert Vuijsje

Co-author of Rita Reys: Lady Jazz and Ado Broodboom Trompet

Før læsningen havde jeg, ligesom mange andre, kun et sporadisk kendskab til Pepper

Adams. Dette skyldes måske at hans hovedinstrument var baryton-saxen, der som dybt-

klingende ofte har stået i skyggen af de andre saxofoner. Efter nu at have lyttet mere

indgående til hans musik, er jeg blevet overbevist om den status han i bogen bliver givet:

en jazz improvisator i den øverste liga; en person, der i lighed med musikere som Bud

Powell, Wardell Gray, Fats Navarro og  J. J. Johnson formåede at få Charlie Parkers

musikalske sprog til at blomstre på deres eget instrument uden uden at fremstå som epigoner.

Before reading, like many others I had only a sporadic knowledge of Pepper Adams. This

is perhaps due to his main instrument being a baritone sax, which, as deep-sounding, often has

been overshadowed by the other saxophones. Having now listened more in depth to his music,

I have become convinced of the status he is given in the book: a jazz musician and improviser

in the top league; a man who, like musicians such as Bud Powell, Wardell Gray, Fats Navarro,

and J. J. Johnson, managed to get Charlie Parker’s musical language to blossom on their own instrument without being epigones.

Leif Bo Petersen

Co-author of The Music and Life of Theodore “Fats” Navarro: Infatuation