Saturday, September 14, 2013

Played Twice (Part Three)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Peter Leitch's great autobiography, Off the Books, concludes with a lengthy chapter about his time living in New York City. Leitch moved there from Toronto in 1982 and found it to be a liberating experience. "New York," Leitch wrote, "was the city of my dreams." Leitch loved the dirt and grime, the energy, and above all, the music scene.  

Leitch and Sylvia Levine moved to East Thirteenth Street, between First and Second Avenue. Leitch's description of the neighborhood is terrific and cinematic in scope:

The streetscape was one of jacked-up cars, baseball on televisions and 
music on radios connected to lamp posts, and people playing conga
drums on the sidewalk. People on the street communicated with their
families and neighbors by shouting back and forth from the street to 
their apartment windows. In summer the fire hydrant across the street
was always open, providing cooling refreshment for kids and dogs.
Although it is illegal to keep farm animals within the city of New York,
some mornings we would awaken to the unmistakable sound of a
rooster crowing somewhere in the neighborhood.

The embodiment of life on Thirteenth Street was Tony, a car mechanic. Tony, the unofficial Mayor of Thirteenth Street, had the cops and town officials in his pocket.

Leitch describes 1982 New York City in rich detail, with an historian's eye for context and nuance. He shapes his discussion with fascinating asides about earlier and later New York, such as the establishment of the city's grid system in 1811, the unsuccessful attempt by Mayor Fernando Wood to have New York succeed from the Union in the 1850s, the fact that there were as yet no chains stores of any kind in the city when he first moved there, and that pre-9/11 New York City "didn't even seem like a part of the United States."

In 1982, New York was a city still rebounding from the financial crisis of the 1970s, with streets riddled with potholes and littered with car parts and abandoned vehicles. This chaotic landscape appealed to Leitch's anarchic spirit. In New York City everything goes, everyone is hustling to get ahead, "the rules were 'on hold,'" yet, somehow, it all worked. As Leitch summarized,

New York City is first and foremost a resource, in fact a collection of
resources. The very best of everything, from music to art to technology,
is available, and often quite cheaply. There is a kind of energy, an edge,
that one doesn't find anywhere else. . . . The city was an entity unto
itself, a sort of free trade interzone. And much of the trade was in ideas.  
There were improvisational aspects to living here, especially as an
illegal alien, that were analogous to the music and appealed to me.

In this new and exciting environment, though virtually broke, Leitch began to get established as a musician. His first gig was with Pepper Adams at an Edgewater, New Jersey club, Struggles. (Peter gave me his cassette copy of this trio gig many years ago.) Soon afterwards, Leitch heard John Hicks and Ray Drummond play at Bradley's and he was deeply moved by their consummate artistry. Bradley's was one of a handful of Manhattan clubs where you could listen to small groups without paying a cover charge.

In his first months in New York, the author was also spending a lot of time with Robert Walker, who was assembling his first book of photography for publication. Leitch was just beginning to formulate his penchant for photojournalism, and Walker's library was a great resource.

In 1983 Leitch toured with organist Jack McDuff, then received a grant from the Canadian government to write and record music for octet, assisted by a letter of recommendation by Oscar Peterson. He also joined a group, the New York Jazz Guitar Ensemble, that performed transcriptions and reharmonizations of Wes Montgomery solos. The group recorded for Choice Records in 1986.

It was a dizzying time for Leitch. Besides gigging and writing record reviews for Cadence, he was practicing as much as six hours a day:  

There were so many fantastic musicians in the city doing so many
different things. I decided that I needed to become a better guitar 
player. New York was a whole other esthetic and required an
adjustment. Things that sounded great in your hometown didn't
sound as good here. You would walk down the street in New York
and hear people playing for spare change who were playing so
much music that they'd send you right back into the woodshed.

In 1984 Leitch recorded his first date as a leader in the States with New York musicians. The project began as a Thelonious Monk dedication and originally was going to be self-produced. Ultimately, Uptown Records signed Leitch and the recording date featured several Monk tunes as well as some standards and originals. Exhilaration--a title exemplifying Leitch's feelings about life in his new-found hometown--featured the all-star band of Pepper Adams, John Hicks, Ray Drummond, and Billy Hart. About Pepper Adams, Leitch wrote,

I was in awe of him. He was amazing. He knew so much about so
many things--all areas of music, visual art, literature, you name it--
and he could carry on an intelligent, informed conversation about 
any of it. And Pepper was a hockey enthusiast, frequently attending
games at Madison Square Garden. He was a staunch New York
Rangers fan.

Despite liking "the outlaw aspect" of being an illegal alien, Leitch was still gigging in Canada and it took a lot of time planning on how to successfully cross the border. After marrying Sylvia in 1985, Leitch initiated immigration proceedings, ultimately getting his Green Card in 1987.

Over the years, in some interviews I've conducted, a number of musicians have spoken about Pepper Adams having been the recipient of racism, that it adversely effected his career. Not once has anything concrete been offered by any interviewees, but the implication has always consistently been that he was marginalized for playing with black bands. In Off the Books, finally I've learned of something specific, as in this description of reverse racism in jazz:
I've never been able to fathom this, but it's OK to have one white person
in a black band (in fact, people like it), or one black person in a white
band, as long as it isn't the leader. Apparently, Buddy DeFranco, Pepper
Adams, and several other white bandleaders who hired black sidemen
experienced this phenomenon to some degree. In fact, on a couple of
Pepper's first albums the company wouldn't put his picture on the cover
because he was white!

A quick look at Pepper's first six released albums as a leader indeed shows this to be true in half the cases. No cover photograph of Pepper exists on The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams (Savoy) or on Motor City Scene (Bethlehem), and the two thumbnail photos with Pepper on them on the cover to 10 to 4 at the Five Spot are somewhat ambiguous. Not knowing Pepper's race, and the lack of putting photographs of him on his own record covers, might be one reason why jazz fans were surprised he was white when he first traveled to Europe in 1964 and later. More than that, of course, was Pepper's style of playing--hardly in the mold of Gerry Mulligan.

Leitch is equally hard-hitting when it comes to jazz critics, something that Pepper Adams was most vehement about:

A lot of what was written about jazz in publications like the New
York Times in the '90s was obviously bought and paid for by the
big record companies. You could see these "jazz journalists"
appear at major label record dates like cockroaches coming out
of the walls, anywhere there was a chance of a free drink, or a
hot dog or a few crumbs of free food. It gave new meaning to 
John Updike's definition of critics: "pigs at the pastry cart." 

Echoing something I once heard Ron Carter tell me and my fellow classmates in a jazz history class at City College of New York, Leitch continues: 

I have always felt that musicians should take their own poll of
critics and journalists. You could give out awards in various 
categories such as "Most consistent misuse of musical
terminology" and "Best regurgitation of a major label press
release" and "Best autobiographical essay in the guise of a 
review," etc. The awards themselves could consist of dog shit
or broken glass. Most musicians, black and white, feel this
way, although very few of them will admit it publicly.

Although the writing about music has become somewhat more democratic with the advent of the internet, I'd certainly be very interested to hear what musicians think of today's jazz critics, if they have the courage.

Leitch is also very critical of the "Young Lion" movement of the 1990s and how corporate interests changed things:

Since the early '90s, due largely to the emergence of Wynton Marsalis
as a major figure, both as a great trumpet player and as a symbol of
the "Young, Gifted and Black" syndrome, the major corporate record
labels had been trying to sell jazz. But instead of selling the music and
its rich legacy of in-the-moment creativity, they decided it was easier 
to sell an image. They bought all the press money could buy, and 
started signing and recording a lot of very young musicians, most of
them black, all of them under the age of twenty-five, and dressed them
in very expensive suits. . . . Some of these kids could play, but most
were in their early or transitional stages of development, and were 
about as ready to make a major label jazz record as I am to fly to
Mars. Maybe not as ready! These records, made with huge budgets
(for jazz) and produced for the most part by people with degrees in
marketing rather than a knowledge of the music, were mostly terrible--
they mostly didn't sell. When they didn't sell the expected number of 
units, the CDs were deleted from the catalog, returned to the company
and actually physically destroyed. This was done so that these items
would not take up space in the record stores that could be used for new
releases. So much for continuity and back catalog. I called this 
"disposable diaper music."

Throughout the memoir, Leitch is unflinchingly honest with himself too, and this makes him even more of a real and sympathetic figure. He discusses his bouts with depression, panic attacks that marked a "crisis of confidence" after 50 years as a performer, and an extra-marital affair and its implications. 

One such theme woven throughout the narrative is Leitch's disinterest with material possessions. When his Gibson L5 guitar slipped out of his hands, for example, and smashed to the floor, Leitch was unmoved:

Time to let go. . . I have never had any kind of romantic attachment 
to guitars. In fact I never really liked them at all. They were simply a
tool, and if they worked well, were fairly comfortable to play, and 
suited the musical purpose at hand, that was enough. Most good
guitars are overpriced anyway. I felt the same way about cameras
later. I remember playing someone's Benedetto guitar. What a great
instrument! But not thirty or forty thousand dollars great.

The last fifty pages of the book charts Leitch's ascent as a photographer, beginning in about 1996. This was somewhat of a healthy reaction to the change in the music business, that was becoming more monopolistic, and fostered the growth of a handful of "stars" that could be surrounded with promotional dollars--subsidizing tours and even club owners.  It was hard for musicians of Leitch's generation to get work in this climate. 

Leitch was mentored by his close friend Robert Walker and, by 2000, he began taking photographic field trips to the Deep South, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. A 1996 Museum of Modern Art retrospective of the work of Roy DeCarava made a tremendous impression on Leitch. A beautiful passage in the book, comparing music and photography, is written on Page 149-50, where the author discusses treble, bass, mid-range, melody, rhythm, form, and other musical concepts.

Part of the appeal of reading Off the Books is learning of the ascent of Leitch. In a way, the book serves as a romance, because Leitch triumphs over his environment and life circumstances to become a major player. As I've always said about Pepper Adams, one of the ways you can tell a player is great is by the company he keeps, and Leitch is no exception. What might seem at times as a travelogue or discographical essay sustains interest because of the musicians with whom Leitch worked. Apart from Adams, Hicks, Drummond, and Hart, Leitch's gigs and recordings discussed in the book are a Who's Who roster of some of the greatest players in jazz: Gary Bartz, Mickey Roker, Jesper Lundgaard, Marvin "Smitty" Smith, Kirk Lightsey, Woody Shaw, Jed Levy, Lewis Nash, Sonny Fortune, Bobby Watson, James Williams, Neil Swainson, Al Grey, Buddy Tate, Jimmy Forrest, Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, Phil Nimmons, Don Thompson, Oscar Peterson, Jaki Byard, Sonny Fortune, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Renee Rosnes, Rufus Reid, Rein de Graaff, Lew Tabackin, Mulgrew Miller, Billy Higgins, Terry Clarke, and Freddie Waits.

Off the Books is a work of tremendous depth. Please read it and pass the word. What a great book!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Played Twice (Part Two)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Before I resume my review of Peter Leitch's excellent memoir, Off the Books, I want to pause to remind Pepper Adams devotees that this Tuesday, September 10, marks the 27th anniversary of Pepper Adams' death. At my home, it's a day of commemoration. I light a candle in his honor and play his music.

Now to guitarist Peter Leitch, who is still very much with us, playing his New York City gig at Walkers every Sunday night. 

The short middle chapter of Leitch's terrific three-part memoir discusses 1977-1982, his six-year experience living in Toronto. It functions as an intermezzo between the much larger chapters about his time in Montreal and New York. Canadian born Leitch, a keen cultural historian, felt that 1977 was a logical time to leave Montreal for Toronto. 

First, the vibrant Montreal music scene was "on its last legs." Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau had been elected in 1954 on an anti-corruption platform, after coming to power as a prosecutor of organized crime (much like New York's mayor Rudolf Guiliani years later). Drapeau's reign (from 1954-1986) was notable for his mission of ridding Montreal of political corruption. Much like Chicago or Kansas City in earlier times, it was the synergy between local government, police, and organized crime that had kept jazz thriving in Montreal. Drapeau's regime slowly put an end to that.

As Leitch also points out, another seismic economic shift was already taking place that was effecting Montreal as a world class city. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in the late 1950s, allowing raw materials and cargo of every description--that once could only be delivered to Montreal--to move past the city to other western destinations in the Great Lakes.  "This had a devastating effect on industry and commerce," writes Leitch. 

Further eroding the city's economic base was the Quebecois separatist movement. In the 1970s many English speaking Canadians left Montreal due to repressive laws favoring French as the dominant language, and amidst the general hoopla about transforming Quebec to a sovereign country, separate from Canada. With the political uncertainty and exodus of English-speaking residents was a huge shift of assets out of Quebec banks. Combined with the $1 billion cost overrun from Expo '67 that took the city 30 years to pay off, Montreal was in an economic tailspin that, according to Leitch, has never been overcome. 

Apart from the economic and political changes, Leitch was also frustrated with the lack of musicianship. For one thing, in 1977 Montreal drummers had no sense of the jazz tradition. To make matters worse, writes Leitch, "it was hard to find a rhythm section that could play four even quarter notes in a row. If you tried to do anything subtle with the phrasing--back phrase or do anything with triplets, they just didn't get it." Not that this didn't happen in Toronto, but some of his friends, such as high school buddy Robert Walker, had already moved west to Toronto, and it was time for Leitch to advance as a player.  

Toronto was a culture shock for Leitch: "Coming from a large cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and wide-open city with a bohemian spirit, I was surprised at the small town mentality and the puritan strain that seemed to run through everything." Leitch was arrested for speeding, going 36 in a 35-mile zone with Quebec license plates. The police later issued him a summons for not mowing his lawn. Unlike Montreal, buying alcohol was highly controlled by the state and getting a good meal in restaurants was almost impossible.

Not only did Toronto seem backwards, but it was a more expensive city to live in than Montreal. And, despite the golden age of Montreal's jazz scene being a thing of the past, there was still far more opportunities to play live music there than in Toronto. Nevertheless, Leitch broke into the local scene. He met bassist Neil Swainson and they worked together in tenor saxophonist Don Thompson's group.  

It was Thompson (know as D.T.) that encouraged Leitch to sit in at Bourbon Street with the Al Grey-Jimmy Forrest-Don Patterson ensemble, which led to tours of the U.S.:

I was learning so much with this group. These people were masters of the
music, and masters of the road. Al and Jimmy had been with the Basie
band for years. . . . I was learning about playing good "time" at some killer
slow tempos, blending, pacing, how to build a solo, what not to play, how
to lead a band, even how to dress on the bandstand and pay attention to
one's shoes. This was the true university of jazz.

Upon his return to Toronto, despite some silly Dixieland gigs that paid the bills, Leitch started to perform with some of the better musicians, such as Phil Nimmons and Rob McConnell. He also got his first week-long gig as a leader at George's Spaghetti House, then made a recording with Oscar Peterson, subbing for Ed Bickert. Leitch worked with some of the top players coming through town too--Clark Terry (with drummer Terry Clarke), Kenny Wheeler--and he was getting gigs out of town with Milt Jackson and touring with his own group.  

After meeting his future wife, Sylvia, in 1981 Leitch recorded Jump Street, his first date as a leader, with George McFetridge, Neil Swainson, and Terry Clarke. Before it was released, Leitch took a tour of England, Russia, and Lithuania with tenor saxophonist Fraser McPherson. But, after recording a duo date with McFetridge in 1982, Leitch was weary of the Toronto scene. His standing on the scene was hardly helped by dumping a beer on jazz critic Mark Miller, then trying to get him fired from the Globe and Mail by distributing a petition among musicians.

I had been thinking of making a move anyway, really since the tours with
Al Grey. I felt as if I wasn't developing musically the way I wanted to. I
knew there was a whole other level out there that I had to try to get to, not
just learn to play it, but try to get to the very essence of the music. In 
Canada, the idea of playing jazz full time, actually making a living, was just
inconceivable, but I knew that somewhere people were doing it. I was
thinking about New York.

With the previous move from Montreal to Toronto, Robert Walker had preceded Leitch. Now, Walker had moved to New York. At one of Leitch's last gigs in Toronto he met Pepper Adams, who told Leitch he liked his playing. Leitch told him he was soon moving to New York and Pepper asked Leitch to contact him when he arrived. Leitch's first gig in New York was with Pepper, but more about that and Leitch's final section next week.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Played Twice (Part One)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

How many times do you come across a book so good you want to read it twice?  That perhaps best describes my feeling about Peter Leitch's dazzling new memoir, Off the Books (Vehicule Press). It's simply the best jazz book I've read in many years, and it's been a joy to "play" it again.

I've known Peter since his 1984 Uptown date with Pepper Adams, and I've listened to his recordings many times over the years. Apart from interviewing him about Pepper many years ago, hearing him at a very memorable late-1980s gig at the Willow in Cambridge MA with pianist James Williams, and running into him once at the New York jazz club Visiones, and I hadn't spoken with him in a very long time until last year's Pepper Adams Week in New York City. During that amazing series of concerts promoted by Motema records, I took a bunch of friends to Walker's to hear him play a few Pepper tunes. Thankfully, in a way, reading his autobiography makes up for not staying in touch.

I've always admired Leitch as a player. His A Special Rapport date on Reservoir, to name one recording, is sensational!  But reading his autobiography gives you a whole different sense of this wide-ranging, very important artist. Besides being a great musician, who has performed with many of jazz's most influential players, Leitch is also an accomplished photographer, a keen observer of the world, and a great writer. Leitch's book is beautifully crafted, gripping, a real page-turner.  His observations about jazz, life, politics, drugs, the music scene, and, in some ways most importantly, about himself, are sincere, direct, funny, touching, poignant.

The book is divided into three sections: "Montreal in the 1950s and 60s," "Toronto 1977-1982," and "New York 1982-."  I will discuss each part individually over the next three weeks to, in my way, give tribute to Leitch's very important contribution to jazz history and life writing. 

Generally speaking, chronologically presented biographies or autobiographies are the norm, and, as such, quite cliched. But in Leitch's memoir, the format works well for three reasons.  First, the content is so fresh and alive, and the prose is wrought in such a concise, forward-moving style, that the format becomes meaningless.  Second, helping the narrative are the author's flash-backs and flash-forwards to themes throughout the book, unifying it in that fashion. Third, the three sections of the book correspond to major shifts in Leitch's life, so they make sense as an overarching organizing principle.

Part One of the book is a discussion of the author's first 23 or so years based in Montreal.  The author immediately emerges as a sympathetic figure, as he establishes the contradiction of being an English-speaking Protestant in a French-speaking, Roman Catholic town. This dichotomy, beautifully developed like one of his solos, serves as  a metaphor for his alienation in working class Point-aux-Trembles, the refinery area of Montreal's east-end.  

Although Leitch learned to speak French by osmosis, his early education took place in English-speaking schools, and by high school, he was bussed downtown for two years--a welcome relief from the neighborhood.  As an outsider, he coped, despite being bullied by gangs. He discovered his nihilism quite young, and this reinforced his detachment, as well as his growing confidence and individuality, amid the pressure of not conforming to the prevailing culture.

Some poignant stories about his family are included, and perhaps it was decided that, in a 200-page memoir, less is more. Still, I was left wanting to know more about his parents. The lack of information about them only reinforces Leitch's sense of alienation, wandering the city's underbelly, making sense of things on his own.

Always the photographer-observer, really memorable are Leitch's descriptions of his neighborhood: multi-colored industrial waste running down the street on his walk home from school; smokestacks burning gases "like religious icons;" sidewalks "caked with thick ice," Catholic priests in long black robes spitting on the sidewalk; the hegemonic, gray stone, mental institution with the red watchtower and chain link fence.

Just as poignantly, Leitch teases the reader on Page One with a hint of his future heroin habit that the author picks up midway in the chapter. But first, Leitch writes about his early exposure to jazz and how difficult it was learning how to play jazz in this milieu.  A few record stores had the current Prestige, Riverside, and Blue Note releases, but there weren't many method books available, and his neighborhood prepared kids to work in the factories, not as aspiring jazz musicians. Leitch, self-taught, spent hours transcribing solos, often slowing them down an octave to 16 rpm, and if necessary, putting coins on the tonearm to slow them down even further.  

Fortunately, the Montreal of his youth was still on the "jazz circuit," so all the major players came through and Leitch played hooky and heard as many as possible.  Implied is that Montreal was a cosmopolitan, open city that, unlike Detroit, for example, didn't restrict minors from visiting jazz clubs. Leitch befriended the legendary guitarist Rene Thomas, who lived in Montreal from 1957-1962, and he studied with trumpeter Herbie Spanier.  From there he met aspiring players like himself and other jazz elders living in town.

Leitch's descriptions of his early gigs, relationships, and growth as a Canadian musician is an important contribution to the jazz history of Montreal--really fascinating to read and loaded with amusing anecdotes. Importantly, Leitch writes about the black jazz scene that was centered around Mountain and St. Antoine streets.  Here, Leitch heard the influential guitarists Nelson Symonds and Sonny Greenwich, among many other great musicians.

The second half of Part One discusses Leitch's use of heroin, begun in the mid-1960s. Leitch was a user until 1973, when he relocated to Quebec City for two years to work full-time for a CBC TV talk/variety show.  Leitch describes this aspect of his life in vivid detail, focusing on how he coped with the habit while growing as a musician. His first wife was also a user.

During the mid-60s, Leitch noticed the difference between how many blacks and whites approached jazz:

Among the black musicians, even the not-so-good ones, there was a
sense of the music being a matter of life and death, which it was. With
some of these old guys if you played the wrong chords, you might get
a trumpet blown in your ear (or worse!). On the bandstand it was
serious.  With a lot of the white musicians, even though they might be
really proficient musicians doing a really great job, you sometimes got
the feeling that they were thinking about their mortgages, or dinner, or
something else. 

I pre-ordered Off the Books because I knew that the author would discuss Pepper Adams. I wasn't expecting to read the book, but I wanted the Adams references for my work on my Pepper Adams biography.  Quite frankly, with a day job, I only have time to seek out books that help me understand Pepper's life, because time is so limited, and I'm trying to work my way through a Pepper Adams screenplay, then get to the full-length biography. Leitch's memoir was impossible to put down, and it has given me several important things that help me understand Adams' life in greater detail:

1. The description of Montreal's Stanley Street Beat Scene in the late 1950s- early 1960s--surely an important contribution to jazz scholarship in its own right--gives me a sense of that place where Pepper performed, mostly notably at the Little Vienna.

2. Pepper denied using heroin, kind of the way Bill Clinton denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky.  Pepper did, however, have a few experiences in New York shooting up, and Leitch's in-depth portrayal of the physical and emotional effects of heroin help me understand why Montreal pianist Keith White talked about heroin and the way it leads to insight.

3. Playing unusual gigs, like strip clubs puts into relief the very strange gigs Pepper worked too, when coming up, including gigs at strip clubs with Roland Hanna in New York City, soon after they arrived in the mid-50s.

4. As I expected, specific descriptions of Pepper are very memorable, especially the passage that Leitch "was in awe of him" and why that was so.  More about that next week in my second installment of this review.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tony and Ernie

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

This past Thursday I drove into midtown Manhattan in the rain to get Tony and Ernie.  British arranger Tony Faulkner and British percussionist Ernie Jackson were waiting for me at 2:30 outside their hotel on Eighth Avenue and 44th Street.

The New York theater district was abuzz with traffic and construction.  Summer tourists were dodging the downpour.  I was steering away from taxi cabs and amped-up, inattentive drivers. Uptown, the Yankees game was piling up traffic, and, across the Hudson, the Barclays golf tournament was adding another dimension to the congested urban landscape.

Tony and Ernie had flown into JFK from England on Wednesday. Their visit was scheduled to coincide with the mixing session I'd booked at Skyline Studios in Warren, New Jersey.  It also kicked off their two-week vacation in New York.  After more than a year of working together via email and Skype, this was Tony and my first time together, and we had considerable work to do, mixing our big band date.

Back over the George Washington Bridge, the rain had slackened and the sun was beginning to peek out from behind the clouds. The three of us drove to drummer Tim Horner's house in nearby Teaneck, New Jersey, where we met Tim and trumpeter Ron Horton.  Along the way, it was interesting to hear Tony and Ernie comment about the area's jazz history, things I take for granted, such as the road sign for "Hackensack."  

The reason for the meeting was to give Tony a chance to meet Tim and Ron and discuss our upcoming live recording. Over wine, Kentucky bourbon, and snacks, we explored the various aspects of the project.  Tim is one of the nicest people I've met in the industry, so it's always a pleasure being involved with him in any capacity.  

Our live tentet recording (Volume 7 of my Motema series) will be taped on November 9-10 in New York and Teaneck.  The esteemed jazz historian Dan Morgenstern will function as emcee.  Tony is writing new Pepper charts for the ensemble, though some will be adapted from his unrecorded big band Pepper arrangements.  Apart from the co-leaders, the band will include multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, bassist Martin Wind, and guitarist John Hart.

At about 5:30, Tony, Ernie, and I left Tim's place and drove to Little Falls, New Jersey to meet pianist and bandleader Diane Moser.  Diane had recommended a small Italian bistro, Bivio, that's owned by alto saxophonist Tommy Colao. Before Diane arrived for dinner, I took Tony and Ernie to a local pub, so they could get a pint of their beloved Guinness.  (Not deliberately a contrarian, I got the last bottle of my beloved Leffe.)  

On our walk to and from the pub, I noticed several Art Deco structures in town, one a small diner with a zig-zag roofline motif that had been converted into a pizzeria,  It was one of four pizzerias we saw on our short walk.  We also walked by a Chevrolet dealer.  This is the way it used to be in New Jersey in the sixties, before more and more car dealerships were built near malls or on major highways.

We all met Diane for the first time and she was an engaging dinner companion. Our meeting gave us a chance to discuss the November 13 concert of Tony's big band Pepper charts that's taking place at Trumpets in Montclair, New Jersey.  Since Diane is a regular at Bivio, she ordered for us.  The food at Bivio is superb and we had a great time!  Please support Tommy, if you're in the area.

After dinner, I drove Tony and Ernie to our hotel in Parsippany, formerly the "Sheraton Tara." The design of the building is modeled after an English castle.  Tony and Ernie were amused, since they know a thing or two about castles.  I left Tony and Ernie at the bar, with their pints of Guinness and a newfound compatriot from England.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On the Road

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I'm in coastal Maine, licking my wounds after the grueling Kickstarter campign to raise funds for the big band CD of Pepper Adams compositions.  The funds settled on Sunday, 12 August--just about a week ago--and it almost seems a distant memory.  That's the point of a vacation, of course.  Get some distance and heal the mind and body.  That's been the agenda.

I've been with my family in Boston, Quebec, and Southern Maine, enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery, eating some great food, and taking a break from all things related to Pepper Adams.  But next week, on my long drive back home to Atlanta, I'm back at it.  I'll be at long last meeting Tony Faulkner in New York City and we'll be mixing his big band arrangements for our forthoming CD.  

Tony and I have had many Skype calls, and we've exchanged countless emails, since we began working together over a year ago.  We're already pretty good buddies, but it will be great to be with him in the U.S, especially in anticipation of our month-long Pepper Adams tour, starting in late October.  Here's our Fall schedule thus far.  We hope to see you on the road:

T, 10/29: Cincinnati  8:30: Contemporary Jazz Orchestra at the Blue Wisp.

W, 10/30: Cincinnati  4:30: Faulkner clinic at Cincinnati Conservatory.  

Th, 10/31: Champaign IL   8:00?: Concert Jazz Band at the Iron Post.

F, 11/1: Champaign IL  1-2: Carner lecture at U of Illinois, Smith Hall, Rm. 25.  
Macomb IL  5:30-6:30: Faulkner clinic at Western Illinois U, Salee 212; 
7-9: Carner lecture/book signing at Western Illinois U, Salee 101.  

Sat, 11/2: Travel day.

Su, 11/3: Detroit   1-4: Scott Gwinnell Dectet at the Institute of Arts.  NPR taping.

M, 11/4:  Off

T, 11/5: Detroit  12:30-2:40: Faulkner arranging clinic at Wayne State University.
6-8: Carner lecture at Wayne State.  

W, 11/6: Toronto   12:15-1:15: Humber College Jazz Band concert.

Th, 11/7: Toronto  11:30-1: Faulkner arranging clinic at Humber; 
11:30-1: Carner lecture at Humber. 
F, 11/8: Montreal   Afternoon: Concordia University lecture and arranging clinic.
Sat, 11/9: New York   8-11: Tim Horner-Ron Horton live Tentet recording at Zeb's, 223 West 28 St.

Su, 11/10: Teaneck NJ  4:30-7:30: Tim Horner-Ron Horton Tentet recording at Puffin Foundation.

M, 11/11: TBD
T, 11/12: TBD

W, 11/13: TBD

Th, 11/14: TBD

F, 11/15: Princeton  11-1: WPRB radio show with Jerry Gordon.
Sat, 11/16: TBD

Su, 11/17: TBD

M, 11/18: TBD

T, 11/19: Williamsburg VA    6:30-8: Faulkner-Carner clinic at College of William & Mary.

W, 11/20: TBD

Th, 11/21: TBD

Sunday, August 11, 2013

One More Day

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

About 2 hours remain in the Kickstarter campaign to fund my new Pepper Adams CD.  Just after I posted last week, much to my delight, I exceeded the $7,000 funding goal.  Again, many thanks to the 100 donors who believe in the project and believe in Pepper Adams.

Last week I was somewhat delirious from the fatigue of the fundraising campaign. Plus, I was having trouble with my iPad browser and the way it interfaces with Blogspot and Google.  I'm taking steps to correct that, so thanks for your patience.

The great Thad Jones disciple, arranger Tony Faulkner, is working furiously on finishing a new set of tenet charts that he can bring with him to New York City in a few weeks to show drummer Tim Horner.  Tim is co-leading the band (with trumpeter Ron Horton) that is recording live at Zeb's in New York on 9 November and again on 10 November at the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck, New Jersey.  This recording, produced by Tim Horner, will be Volume 7 of my Complete Works of Pepper Adams series of recordings for Motema.  I hope some of you can make the shows!  It's great to have an knowledgeable audience!

We're premiering the tentet material in Detroit, with Scott Gwinnell's Dectet, at a concert at the Institute of Arts on 2 November.  The instrumentation, replacing guitar with another trombone, is only slightly different from what we are recording a week later.  I'm pleased that the Detroit concert is being recording for broadcast on NPR.  I'll be sure to post the details, once known.

I'm meeting Tony Faulkner in New York on 22 August. He's flying in from England for two weeks.  After meeting Tim for coffee, and the bandleader Diane Moser for pizza, the following day we're driving out to Skyline Studios in Warren, New Jersey, about an hour west of Manhattan, to mix and master the big band date.  We'll be working with the very accomplished engineer Paul Wickliffe, who recorded the Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard, among his many accomplishments.  Wickliffe feels that we may have a Grammy contender.  Because of his vast experience, Tony and I are following his lead on how to make the best possible CD to achieve a nomination.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I woke up this morning, as I have every morning for the last three weeks, hoping to see a Kickstarter pledge posted from somewhere east of here.  With just a little more than seven days left in my challenging Kickstarter campaign (to raise enough capital to produce my new big band CD of Pepper Adams compositions), nothing came in overnight.  With 94% of the campaign funded, I sit and wait; my celebration postponed yet another day?

Gary Smulyan, Neil Tesser, and others have told me that this is to be expected.  The normal rhythm for crowdfunding is that they successfully conclude in the last week of the campaign.  I had emailed Tesser several weeks ago to ask him if he would post an email to his readers in Chicago.  My CD features an all-Illinois based band, so it made sense to get local fans informed, with the hope that some might pledge their support.  He told me to wait.  In his experience, things always happen in the last week.  Smulyan said much the same thing to me a few days ago.

So I wait.  I wasn't too surprised when I looked at my Kickstarter page this morning--while trying to focus after a reasonably good night's sleep--because Saturdays in the summer haven't been good days for receiving pledges.  Sundays have been better.  Based on my experience, I'd deduce that no one should even bother with Kickstarter in the summer.  People are just too distracted.  Steve Cerra told me that a few weeks ago.

Noal Cohen was the first to articulate what I was starting to believe: that success on Kickstarter is predicated on an extensive social media network.  Kickstarter, you could say, is a young person's game.  I'm neither young, nor flush with "friends."  Neither are many of my colleagues, and some of Pepper's generation barely use a computer.  I'm a baby boomer, someone who grew up with LPs, the Beatles and the blues, not a laptop and gangsta rap.  For me, my first foray into Kickstarter was an intense game of catch-up.  I now understand Facebook and Twitter much better, but I wait.  7 more days.

94% in school was a pretty good grade. It was something you could be proud of, knowing that you did a good job.  94% at Kickstarter has the same resonance, because, like a 94 grade, it means a lot of work has paid off.  But anything less than 100% in Kickstarter is a failing grade, because you lose all the money.  So I wait.