Sunday, November 17, 2013

One More Week

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Looking back on this year's Pepper Adams book and concert tour, with only four days remaining before Tony Faulkner flies home to England, I'd say it's been an incredible ride! All that remains is the drive from Philadelphia to Atlanta, with stops in Williamsburg VA, Chapel Hill NC, and Winston-Salem NC to do college lectures. Still, the glow remains from some truly great moments.

Regarding live performances, the first great thing on the tour was the party at my place in Tony's honor, led by pianist Kevin Bales. Walking into the Iron Post in Urbana IL a few minutes late and hearing the UI Concert Jazz Band play Mean What You Say was really memorable too. The Humber College Jazz Band (with guest soloists Pat LaBarbera and Shirantha Beddage), led by Denny Christianson, was a great midday Toronto experience! One of the tunes will be released by Humber on their next sampler.  In Montreal, the Altsys Tentet played Faulkner's charts to a rousing audience, followed two days later by the recording of the charts at the Puffin Foundation in Teaneck NJ. Two night later, trumpeter Vinnie Cutro tore it up with Diane Moser's Composers Jazz Band at Trumpets in Montclair NJ. We've videotaped a lot of the gigs, so you can look forward to seeing clips at

I especially liked our experience at Wayne State University. The really good Wayne big band played two world premieres for us of entirely unexpected Pepper Adams arrangements. I also had a large and enthusiastic audience for my Pepper lecture, including some students that came in from Windsor, Ontario. Chris Collins was a very warm host to Tony and I and there's the possibility of returning sometime down the road. I especially enjoyed walking the same halls that Pepper walked in the late 1940s.

John Vana was an equally enthusiastic and warm host to us in Macomb IL. There and elsewhere it was fun to meet young, aspiring jazz musicians who dig Pepper Adams.

Some notable food moments took place too. We stumbled on a great coffee shop in Galesburg IL that makes terrific pastries. The Ann Arbor restaurant Grange was excellent, especially their Michigan white wine list. Who knew that Leelanau wines rival Oregon and the Finger Lakes? The French bistro L'Express in Montreal was also really superb, as was Blossom, the vegan restaurant in New York City. They have a terrific and quite affordable Alsatian Pinot Blanc on their list. Zafra and Cucharamama in Hoboken NJ were as good as ever!

The tour has some forward momentum. I've been invited to speak at Temple University and Montclair State University next year, plus it's possible that Tony and I will tour again in 2015, since some Midwestern schools are interested in having us return. Driving 4,500 miles in a month are kind of grueling, so we'll look forward to some longer residencies the next time around. Thanks again to all the Kickstarter donors who made this exciting tour possible!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Canadian Tour

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Tony Faulkner and I heard some terrific performances of his big band and tentet arrangements over the last few days.  Denny Christianson (with soloists Pat LaBarbera and Shirantha Beddage) led the superb Humber College Big Band in an hour's worth of big band charts of Pepper tunes, plus "A Pair of Threes," an Alf Clausen chart that Denny and Pepper did for JustinTime Records in 1986, just before Pepper's death. The band played brilliantly and at least one of the tunes (probably Doctor Deep) will be released by Humber on their next CD.

That night the Toronto Art Orchestra performed Faulkner's Canadian premiere of Park Frederick III, Tony's wonderful suite dedicated to Pepper, with Tony conducting. We will post the performance on YouTube and at

Last night in Montreal the Altsys Tentet, led by Jennifer Bell and Bill Mahar, played a scintillating set of Faulkner tentet charts. Mahar's plunger trumpet solo on Philson brought the house down! As a result of this performance, Tony has taken my advice and he'll be reducing his Suite down to ten pieces so it's more likely to get performed and recorded.

Tony is also doing new charts for tentet featuring transcribed Pepper solos.  We're calling it Super Pepper.  It will comprise the music for Volume 9 or 10, depending on when he can get it done and when I can raise the funds.

In the meantime, Volume 6 (big band) will be released, new Bevan Manson octet charts (with string quartet) will be commissioned, and a date for solo piano (with Adam Birnbaum) will be planned.

I hope we see you at Zeb's in New York City tonight and at Trumpet's in Montclair NJ this Wednesday for the last performances of Faulkner's spectacular charts on the tour.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gary and Tony's Excellent Adventure

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

It's been an absolutely great tour so far! Two concerts at the Blue Wisp, one with the world premiere of Tony Faulkner's dedication to Pepper, took place in Cincinnati. After 33 years, it seems the club is on its last legs. Musicians are scooping up their music stands after the gig--not a good sign-- but the band sounded great, as always. Lectures and clinics in Champaign-Urbana were well received. The U. of Illinois Big Band sounded terrific playing "Mean What You Say" and Faulkner's Pepper Adams charts at the Iron Post and at Tony's clinic. Yesterday we did clinics and lectures in Macomb IL, which were enthusiastically embraced by John Cooper and John Vana; So much so that we're already discussing a return in 2015! At my lecture, Tony came upon the idea of a "Super Pepper" date, along the lines of Super Sax, for which he'd transcribe Pepper solos and arrange them for a nine piece band. Our 2015 tour would surely feature this music. We're off to Detroit, for the world premiere of Tony Faulkner's tentet charts at the Detroit Institute of Arts (Sunday, Nov 3, 1pm). We hope to see you there.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In the Country with Tony

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Yesterday afternoon I picked up at the Atlanta airport UK arranger Tony Faukner.  This begins our 1-month tour of North America.  After a great meal in Decatur at 246 to kick things off, then watching a vintage 1982 video of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (with Tom Harrell, John Marshall, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Ed Neumeister), Tony went out like a light.

Today is a recovery day at my place in the Georgia countryside.  My webmaster Dan Olson is flying in from Minneapolis. Tomorrow we're having a party in Tony's honor, and I've invited a brilliant quartet, led by pianist Kevin Bales, to perform for us.  I doubt they'll play any Pepper tunes from Kevin's CD I produced; probably standards, but that's just fine.  With Kevin is Mace Hibbard on alto sax, Neal Starkey on bass, and Justin Varnes on drums.  Tony will likely sit in.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Toronto radio interview

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Tonight, from 10-12 midnight Eastern, the interview I did a few days ago with Robert Fogle regarding my work on Pepper Adams will be aired.  The segment, on CHRY radio in Toronto, will likely start at 10:30. You can stream the show at

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meeting Tony Faulkner

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

In the Spring of 2012 my Pepper Adams book, Pepper Adams' Joy Road, was finally completed, after more than 25 years of research.  At that time, I was also finishing liner notes for Motema to get the 5-CD set of Pepper's music ready for release in the Fall.  The overarching strategy was to co-brand the book and CD series as "Joy Road," then release them at the same time and promote them with a book and CD tour.

I built an ambitious, four month, 40-city tour throughout the US and Canada (including one week at major clubs in New York), lecturing at colleges and book stores, and overseeing concerts of Pepper's music.  It was really a fantastic time--one of my life's highlights!  Most of the bands were small groups, but some were large aggregations that played big band arrangements of Pepper tunes that I had commissioned.  The commissions were started the preceding year in anticipation of the tour, and with an eye towards a big-band CD as Volume 6 of my Motema series.

One of the arrangers that provided big band charts is the esteemed Frank Griffith, an old friend who now lives in London. Griffith was only able to do two charts, but knew that I needed at least enough material to do a CD.  He recommended that I contact a colleague, Tony Faulkner, who lives in Leeds, England.  He thought Faulkner would enjoy participating in my project.  Griffith said, "I can not recommend him highly enough," and that was enough praise for me.

I emailed Faulkner, and he wrote back saying that he was delighted to get involved. Little did I know that he was retired and one of Thad Jones' greatest disciples.  In the ensuing 18 months, Faulkner would throw himself heart and soul into the project, doing 21 big band arrangements of Pepper's compositions; an original 20-minute suite (Park Frederick III) dedicated to Adams, built on themes from Pepper's tunes; as well as 11 tentet charts on Pepper's tunes.  For some, this is the output of an entire lifetime!  Faulkner's dedication and brilliant work was so inspiring that I produced Volume 6 entirely of his arrangements, then joined with drummer Tim Horner to produce a second CD of Faulkner's work for tentet, that will be recorded in a few weeks, live in New York and New Jersey.

This Saturday I'll go into more specifics about tunes, concerts, and the details of the upcoming tour.  Please see my post "Tony and Ernie" from 8/24/13, an amusing two-day travelogue about the recording of Volume 6.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pepper Adams Archive?

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

It occurred to me today that I wrote a will many years ago, directing my heirs to donate all of my jazz and Pepper Adams materials to the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark NJ.  Over the years much of my work has benefited from the Institute. But in a few weeks I'll be touring the Thad Jones Archives at William Paterson University.  William Paterson has an extraordinary jazz studies program that Thad started. Doesn't it make a lot of sense to establish a Pepper Adams Archive to encourage future work on Pepper at the same place that houses the Thad Jones Archive?  There's so much overlap, and so much of my Pepper materials can help Thad Jones researchers.  Pepper and Thad, like Carney and Duke, should be together.  I'll be exploring this with William Paterson and I'll report back about it. Hopefully this meeting will set in motion not just a future home for Pepper Adams materials, but a place of activity about him and his great body of work.