Saturday, December 21, 2013

Big Band CD Update

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

There's been some movement over the last week regarding the release of The Complete Pepper Adams, Volume 6. Motema is now proposing a October 8, 2014 release, to coincide with Pepper's 84th birthday, along with a tour to celebrate his music that would include events in Chicago, Virginia and North Carolina, New York City, and London. No decision has been made about whether the CD will be released physically or digitally, but the basic plan is to do college clinics and lectures (as on the previous two tours), but also concerts in Chicago, New York, and London. One idea is to get the University of Illinois Concert Jazz Band to play Chicago's Jazz Showcase, then fly them over to the London Jazz Festival in mid-November, along with a 3-bari group including Gary Smulyan. Between Adams' birthday and the London events, the intervening time could be filled with gigs hither and yon, including several in New York. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Readers Appreciated

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Many thanks to all my friends who took the time to read the Prologue and Chapter 1 of my Pepper Adams biography in progress. Thanks too to those who commented on the proposed title of the book.
I've made some tweaks to the Prologue and I'm still reassessing Chapter 1.

It's a windy, rainy day here north of Atlanta, so I'm curling up with two books that are indispensable to would-be biographers: Milton Lomask's The Biographer's Craft and Leon Edel's Writing Lives: Pricipia Biographica.  There's so much wisdom in these works.

Kickstarter gifts in gratitude for donations to Volume 6 (big band date) of my Pepper Adams CD project and recent Pepper Adams book/concert tour will be mailed starting next week. Those expecting Tony Faulkner's arranging manuscript should expect a slight delay, as he's just now back in England working on it.  Those who are expecting Skype arranging lessons should hear from Faulkner soon to schedule them.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Over the last week I've been developing the first chapter of my Pepper Adams biography. So far it's a short overview of how isolation and being on his own informed Pepper's life. I'm using the chapter to set a tone for the book, and as a bridge to the pivotal early moment in Adams' life, described at length in Chapter 2, when Adams first borrows a baritone sax from Grinnell's, the music store he was working at for only a few weeks as a Christmas extra in 1947. In Chapter 1 I've also written about trumpeter Rex Stewart, who became a very significant father figure to Pepper two years after Pepper's father died, when Pepper was nine years old.

The working title of my book is Pepper Adams: Jazz King of the Baritone Sax.  Any feedback on the title? My editor at Scarecrow thinks the subtitle is a logical way to market the book to a larger audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pepper Biography Begun

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Throughout my recent book and concert tour, people asked me when they can expect to read my companion Pepper Adams biography. I joked that quality takes time, or that it would certainly take less time to do the biography than the nearly thirty years it took me to finish Joy Road. Privately, however, I wasn't sure when I'd start writing, and I knew that it would take many years to do a full-length biography worthy of him. 

Well, I'm really happy to report that, after being inspired last night by the beautifully crafted film The Book Thief, I've begun writing the biography. This morning I woke up early and starting sketching out out the Prologue and first two chapters.

I've had similar moments before. After the birth of my daughter, for example, I wrote what I thought was the opening chapter. But finding a narrative voice and the right way to begin has been difficult. Finding an argument and acknowledging that I've finally gotten to a place where I understand Pepper's achievements have been difficult too. Fortunately, the two lecture/book tours I've done this year and last have helped me to think long and hard about Pepper, to ascertain his place, and get some sense of perspective. Now I'm on my way. The book is contracted to Scarecrow. When will it be published? I'm shooting for 2020. I like the sound of 20-20.

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.