Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Life and Music of Pepper Adams?

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I've been reading Halsey Stevens' The Life and Music of Bela Bartok (revised, 1964). I've had a paperback copy in my library for over twenty years. Its cover price is $4.50. Remember that? That's when a gallon of gas in the U.S. was 25 cents. 

What I especially like about the book is the way it's organized. The first section is a 100 page biography, followed by a 200 page section about Bartok's music. The second part is subdivided into seven chapters: Piano Music, Vocal Music, Chamber Music (2 parts), Concertos, Orchestral Music, Dramatic Music. I'm seriously considering doing my second Pepper book this way. For one thing it places far greater emphasis on Pepper's place as an original soloist, influential stylist and fine composer. It also allows those who want to read the bio separately to do so. A shorter biography allows me to get it done much sooner and a section on Pepper's music lets me cover in great detail his extraordinary achievements. 

How should I segment the second section? Maybe by dividing his recordings up as I have in the Chronology and in Pepper Adams' Joy Road?: Early Years, Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet, Journeyman, Thad, International Soloist? That might work. I'd also add separate sections on his compositions and arrangements. I could even discuss his commercial work: all those overdubs he did for CTI, Atlantic, etc. from around 1968-1975. 

Then again maybe a more thematic approach might be better? I could do separate discussions of his dates as a leader, his work with big bands (Kenton, Shorty Rogers, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones, Duke Pearson, Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis), his small group work, his dates as featured soloist, and so forth including commercial work, compositions/arrangements, etc.

As for the biography, the plan was always to zig-zag thematically, using fictional devices such as flashbacks, flash-forwards, etc. Pepper hated cliches so why treat his life in a trite manner?

I remember telling Martin Williams in the late 1980s--who first contracted the biography for publication by the Smithsonian Institution in 1990--that I liked Steven's approach. It seems I've come full circle! I welcome your suggestions on what you think I should do.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Pepper Adams in the U.S. Army

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

This Monday is Memorial Day, a national holiday that commemorates those who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. It seems an appropriate time to take a look at Pepper Adams' time in the U.S. Army. I'd spend more time with it now but I'm taking the weekend off. I'll take up the topic soon. Until then, here's two things: An overview of Pepper's Army experience as seen in the Chronology section of (but with new upates) and an description of a memoir written by an Army buddy of Pepper's:
July 12: Detroit: Adams enlists in the U.S. Army. He was hoping to fail the induction physical and be found unfit for service.

cJuly 15: Waynesville MO: Basic Training at Ft. Leonard Wood.
July-Aug: Pontiac MI: While on "Terminal Leave," Adams goes to Thad Jones' parent's house for a jam session, soon after meeting Thad for the first time. Adams and Jones spend some additional time together during the last days of Adams' leave.
cSept 1: Waynesville MO: Five months with the 6th Armored Division Band at Ft. Leonard Wood. Bill Evans and Tommy Flanagan were both at the post in other units.
Feb: Waynesville MO: Adams organizes a Special Services band at Ft. Leonard Wood for future performances in Korea.
Spring: Waynesville MO: Adams receives an emergency furlough from Ft. Leonard Wood as a ruse, engineered by Charlie Parker (posing as Adams' mother's doctor), so that Adams could visit Parker in Kansas City. When Adams learns that Parker is missing from his gig, Adams sees a movie, stays at the Y, then returns to the base the following day.
July: Ann Arbor MI: Hugh Jackson private recording with Bu Bu Turner, et al. Adams possibly on 'Terminal Leave.'
July-Aug: Pontiac MI: Jam session at Thad Jones' house while on leave.
cOct 10: San Francisco: Adams is shipped off to Korea, by way of Ft. Lott in Seattle and Camp Drake near Tokyo, with the 10th Special Services Company.
cOct 29: Asaka, Japan: Adams is stationed at Camp Drake, awaiting re-assignment in Korea.
cNov 15: Korea: Adams first performance in the Eighth Army's 10th Special Services band.

Apr 5: near Kunsan, Korea: Tommy Flanagan trio, plus altoist Jerry Lehmeier, recorded very possibly by Pepper Adams (who was in the audience). Recorded on Easter, presumably at Base K-8.
Apr 12: near Kunsan, Korea: Tommy Flanagan trio, plus altoist Jerry Lehmeier, recorded very possibly by Pepper Adams (who was in the audience). Recorded at Base K-8.
May 17: Pusan, Korea: Adams boards the Marine Phoenix troopship for his return home.
cMay 23: Pacific Ocean: Adams performs, on alto, for returning troops, in a quintet with Doc Holladay.
cJune 2: Seattle: Arrives at Ft. Lott.
June 5: Detroit: Receives honorable release from active duty.
June 6: Ft. Custer MI: Files discharge papers and is transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve.

"In this memoir, Alvin Gould recounts his experiences serving in the United States military during the Korean War. Gould spent nearly a year of his three year tour of duty as an accordionist in the 2nd Platoon of the 10th Special Services Company, an all-soldier entertainment unit made up of professional and celebrity musicians, comedians, magicians, and other entertainers. His unit broke all previous records, zigzagging over 7000 miles across South Korea and playing over 250 shows for military personnel and other UN troops. Gould completed his military service giving accordion lessons to a Colonel, working as a mail clerk in the 8th Army Headquarters in Seoul, and finally managing a service club as sergeant in charge at Fort Gordon, Georgia. In Boots on the Ground with Music in my Hands, Gould looks back at his service in the military fondly, sharing stories of family, friendship, and war."

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Day the Earth Stood Still for Thad and Mel (Part 2)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I found my file for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra's catastrophic first tour of Japan. There's three documents in it. First is a Local 802 American Federation of Musicians (New York) union contract, signed by Pepper Adams and dated 19 October 1967. The contract specifies an ambitious "series of concerts in Japan" to run from 3 December 1967 through 3 January 1968. The wage agreed upon is "$3,200 for entire engagement" and payment was to be made "at beginning and conclusion of engagement." The contract is co-signed by Keiko Okuya (the maiden name of Elvin Jones' future wife) who was representing Elvin Promotion Co. of 21-25 Hashiguchi-Machi, Nagasaki City, Nagasaki, Japan.

Pepper's contract lists Pepper as the leader so this is likely a tour Keiko tried to organize as a way of getting him to Japan to perform with Elvin. It's moot because the tour never took place but here's a summary of Keiko's corresponding itinerary nonetheless:

Dec 1: Tokyo: 7:35 pm arrival at Haneda Airport.
Dec 2: Tokyo: 1pm hotel interview.
Dec 3: Tokyo: Concert.
Dec 4: Off day.
Dec 5: Nagoya: Concert.
Dec 6: Off day.
Dec 7: Kyoto: Concert.
Dec 8: Off day.
Dec 9: Osaka: Concert.
Dec 10: Kobe: Concert.
Dec 11: Off day.
Dec 12: Hiroshima: Concert.
Dec 13: Off day.
Dec 14: Fukuoka: Concert.
Dec 15: Fukuoka: Charity show.
Dec 16: Fukuoka: Charity show.
Dec 17: Nagasaki: Concert.
Dec 18: possibly Nagasaki: Charity Sign show.
Dec 19: Tokyo: Concert.
Dec 20: Off day.
Dec 21: Sendai: Concert.
Dec 22: Northeastern Provinces: Charity show.
Dec 23: Northeastern Provinces: Charity show.
Dec 24: Aomori: Concert.
Dec 25: Off day.
Dec 26: Sapporo: Concert.
Dec 27: Off day.
Dec 28: Obihiro: Concert.
Dec 29: Off day.
Dec 30: Muroran: Concert.
Dec 31: Off day.
Jan 1: Off day.
Jan 2: Tokyo: Concert.
Jan 3: Tokyo: Concert.
Jan 4: possibly Seattle: Return to the U.S.
Jan 5: New York: Homecoming.

Keiko's far less ambitious second itinerary in my file was organized for 1968. Here's a summary of that document:

July 5: Tokyo: Arrival at Haneda Airport.
July 6: Tokyo: 2pm interview at hotel.
July 7: Tokyo: Concert.
July 8: Nagoya: Concert.
July 9: Nagoya: Concert.
July 10: Kobe: Concert.
July 11: Fukuoka: Concert.
July 12: Off day.
July 13: Tokyo: Concert.
July 14: Sapporo: Concert.
July 15: Sendai: Concert.
July 16: Tokyo: Concert.
July 17: Off day.
July 18: Return to the U.S.

Keiko's second itinerary was likely a first draft of Thad-Mel's Japanese tour. Unfortunately, it doesn't list the band or leader names, nor contain lodging or gig information as Jerry Dodgion said was distributed in advance of the trip. Plus, the dates above (5-18 July) were ultimately changed to 11-22 July for the actual tour.

I called Dodgion back today for clarification about K. Abe's role. It seemed possible that Abe went back to Japan with the band. Dodgion told me that, although Abe visited New York occasionally, he resided at that time in Japan. The bank that Abe, Keiko, Thad and Mel visited (see earlier post) was in Tokyo, not New York. That's why all conversation was in Japanese and Keiko needed to translate for Thad and Mel.

few faxed copies of photographs taken by K. Abe were also in my file. Abe faxed them to me in 1990. One photo is of four-fifths of the Thad-Mel reed section (Adams, Daniels, Richardson, Dodgion), dated "July 21, '68, Tokyo."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Thad or Not Thad?: That Is the Question

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Writing about the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra recently has gotten me thinking about the arrangers other than Thad who wrote for the band during Pepper Adams' tenure (1966-1977). My curiosity was piqued by the interview I did a few weeks ago with Jerry Dodgion. He told me that Joe Farrell didn't begin work on his arrangement of Lover Man--written as a tenor saxophone feature for him with the band--until after the orchestra played its first gig at the Village Vanguard on 7 February 1966.

Other than Farrell, the earliest arrangers for Thad-Mel (other than Thad) were Bob Brookmeyer, Tom McIntosh and Garnett Brown. Bob Friedman and Bob Brookmeyer also wrote some of the vocal charts for the first Joe Williams date on Solid State. In the 1970s Frank Foster, Jerry Dodgion and Cecil Bridgewater wrote for the band. You can read about Bridgewater's work in Pepper Adams' Joy Road (page 303).

Here's a roster of arrangements that Thad-Mel bandmembers wrote for the band to perform during Pepper's tenure. Let me know if I missed any:

ABC Blues    Bob Brookmeyer
Ambiance    Jery Dodgion
Bachafillen      Garnett Brown
Balanced Scales = Justice    Tom McIntosh
Cecilia Is Love    Frank Foster
Giant Steps   Frank Foster
Little B's Poem   Cecil Bridgewater
Love and Harmony  Cecil Bridgewater
Lover Man   Joe Farrell
Now That She's Away   Frank Foster
The Oregon Grinder   Jerry Dodgion
Samba con Getchu  Bob Brookmeyer
Sophisticated Lady   Garnett Brown   
St. Louis Blues   Bob Brookmeyer
Willow Weep for Me    Bob Brookmeyer
Willow Tree  Bob Brookmeyer

Apart from charts specifically written for the band, Thad Jones recorded a Gary McFarland chart (Toledo by Candlelight) and performed the Neal Hefti arrangement of Pensive Miss (or did Thad redo it?) 

That reminds me of tunes Thad arranged and adapted for the big band but didn't write, such as A--That's Freedom (Hank Jones), The Jive Samba (Nat Adderley), The Groove Merchant (Jerome Richardson), Intimacy of the Blues (Billy Strayhorn), Imagine (John Lennon), Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing and Living for the City (Stevie Wonder), Ambiance (Marian McPartland), And I Love You So (Don McLean), I Love You  (Cole Porter), The Theme from "Hawaii" (David and Bernstein), For the Love of Money (Gamble and Huff) and dare I say possibly A Child Is Born (Roland Hanna)? I'd like to hear more from the readership on this one! Additionally, there's forty or so vocal features, such as Come Sunday (Duke Ellington), Jump for Joy (Duke Ellington) and Roll 'em Pete (Pete Johnson) as heard on live broadcasts, on the first Joe Williams recording and the Ruth Brown date.

Does anyone know the derivation of these tunes that Thad-Mel performed? Who arranged them?: Two Ways On, Trying Times, Ceora (Lee Morgan's tune?), After Paris and But a Feeling. I noticed these titles in my Pepper book.

Did Thad write everything specifically for the band or did some of his arrangements carry over from charts written earlier? I exchanged another set of emails about this with saxophonist David Demsey, Curator of the Thad Jones Archive at William Paterson University. Demsey kindly shared with me his notes he used for a recent talk he did about Thad Jones at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. Although I wasn't in attendance, Demsey gave I'm sure a fascinating presentation about the full breadth of Thad's work: from his Detroit roots before he joined Count Basie in 1954 to his work overseas after the Thad-Mel divorce when he "left Mel Lewis with the kids." Demsey's notes include some terrific insights about Thad's small group work and what Jones appropriated from it for his big band charts.

Demsey also discussed "The Big Seven," those charts that Thad had written prior to the formation of Thad-Mel. Those tunes--All My Yesterdays, A--That's Freedom, Backbone, Big Dipper, Low Down, Little Pixie and The Second Race--are presumably the collection of charts that Count Basie commissioned Thad to write in 1964 for an all-Thad Basie LP. That LP was never recorded because Basie rejected Thad's work in its entirety. Can anyone confirm this, these tunes and the general circumstances? As the Chinese say, "In crisis comes opportunity." Basie allowed Thad to use the arrangements, Thad-Mel was formed and the rest is history.

By the end of the first month's worth of Thad-Mel gigs at the Vanguard, Tiptoe, Three and One, Once Around, Lover Man, Don't Ever Leave Me, Mean What You Say and Mornin' Reverend had been added to the book. Mornin' Reverend and Mean What You Say, however, were rehearsed in time for opening night at the Vanguard (7 February). Can we deduce that the following ten tunes--the seven Basie rejects, two news things that Thad wrote for the band, and one Brookmeyer chart--comprised the very beginning Thad Jones-Mel Lewis book? These would be the charts that were refined and polished over a 10-week period begining on Thanksgiving Day Weekend, 1965 at A&R Recording Studios and culminating on opening night at the Vanguard. Tapes of these rehearsals have not been found:

All My Yesterdays
A--That's Freedom
Big Dipper
The Little Pixie
Low Down
Mean What You Say
Mornin' Reverend
The Second Race
Willow Weep for Me

All ten were written and arranged by Thad Jones with the obvious exception of Willow Weep for Me (arranged by Bob Brookmeyer) and A--That's Freedom (arranged by Thad Jones, written by Hank Jones).

As an aside, David Demsey shared with me the following:

"I wanted to be sure you knew that Rob DuBoff of eJazzLines discovered no less than 13 Thad charts, written in and around 1963 for Harry James. Turns out James was a big Basie fan and he put Thad on retainer for a chart per month, along with Neal Hefti and I believe Frank Foster. A lot of the newly found Thad charts were never recorded. Most notable historically are earlier versions of Three and One and Tiptoe -- both shorter and less composed out.  Three and One's melody in this version is assigned to guitar and piano. Quite amazing!"

This is the same period of time that Harry James offered Pepper Adams a $10,000 salary if he would join James' band and stay for a full year. At the time the James band was based in Las Vegas and Pepper was touring with Lionel Hampton's band, a situation Pepper disliked. $10,000 was a lot of money back then but Pepper turned down James' offer because he felt James' band was too commercial. I wonder if the Thad Jones/Harry James connection was something that James used to entice Pepper?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Lost in Translation: A New Review of Pepper Adams' Joy Road

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Below is David Demsey's review of my Pepper book for the e-magazine Saxophone Today. He originally wrote it some time ago for Saxophone Journal but the magazine went through a reorganization and the piece was orphaned for a while.

Gary CarnerPepper Adams’ Joy Road: An Annotated Discography [Scarecrow Press, $57.95].  Recommended for: jazz fans and teachers, libraries.

This is, on the surface, a book-sized discography, a listing of all known recordings of the great baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. Butthe academic-sounding “discography” category does not adequately describe the exhaustive work that author Gary Carner has done to tell the story of Adams’ life in what amounts to a gig-by-gig, session-by-session biography.

Park “Pepper” Adams, one of the greatest jazz baritone saxophone voices since bebop, grew up in Detroit and there had instruction from Wardell Gray, undertook early collaborations with fellow Detroiters Barry Harris, Billy Mitchell, then in the bands of Lucky Thompson and others.  By his late twenties, he was a member of the house band at the famous Blue Bird jazz club, and there became close musical associates with one of the great “royal families” of jazz: Thad, Elvin and Hank Jones. He worked endless gigs with them, in their own band as well as accompanying major soloists as they came through town. Later, he became a member of Stan Kenton’s band and with Benny Goodman, and co-led groups with Donald Byrd and others. Perhaps his most well-known association was with Thad Jones, as a member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra from its inception through 1977, and also recording in small groups with Thad, including the historic “Mean What You Say” LP.   Baseball fans will love the fact that Adams got his nickname from St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang ballplayer Pepper Martin because of his uncanny physical resemblance to Martin as a kid.

Author Carner spent decades devoting his life’s work to gathering information on every performance recording that existed on Adams – not just his many studio sessions, but also hundreds of live performance tapes. With discographical precision, each of these concerts and recording sessions is painstakingly chronicled in terms of exact date, personnel, and pieces recorded. But, what makes this book into a virtual biography is the number of interviews with other members of those ensembles that accompany many entries, often discussing not only that particular date but also other anecdotes and aspects of membership in that group, including tour details, stories of other sessions and engagements that were not recorded, etc. There are interviews with nearly every surviving member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, and with dozens upon dozens of other musicians, record producers and concertgoers.

The reader’s first reaction to this book is to seek out some of Adams’ wonderful compositions, and recordings of these gigs; Carner has done that work as well, with the same energy that created the book, through his beautifully assembled website,  This first-rate site can act as a companion to this book. For example, the “Compositions” section shows a complete list of Adams’ compositions; clicking on each composition brings up audio of each of the recordings of that composition, and passing the arrow over the entry shows the album cover.

Also now available is The Complete Works of Pepper Adams, Volumes 1-5, recorded by contemporary artists including Gary Smulyan, Frank Basile, Eric Alexander, Alexis Cole and others.

All information and huge Pepper Adams resource:


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Double Trouble: Alan Grant, George Klabin and Thad Jones-Mel Lewis'First Gig

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Since the 2012 publication of Pepper Adams' Joy Road, the first of three books I'm doing on Pepper Adams, a controversy over what constitutes the first performance by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra has remained. My information was based on Pepper's itinerary, interviews with musicians in the band and also what I could infer from the CD "Opening Night." At the very least I wanted to know if Pepper Adams or Marv Holladay was playing baritone, since both are listed on the cover as participating musicians. Thanks to new information from my recent interview with engineer George Klabin, plus the efforts of saxophonists Frank Basile and David Demsey, I'm able to report some changes to the historical record.

First a little background. In 2000, DJ and impresario Alan Grant released a CD called "Opening Night" that purported to be music from the incredibly important first appearance of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra at the Village Vanguard on 7 February 1966. But others, such as saxophonists Jerry Dodgion and Bill Kirchner, contested that what Grant suggests (and partly what I wrote in my book) about the gig is not entirely true. Dodgion was in the band from its inception and Kirchner has been researching a book about Thad Jones with fellow saxophonist Kenny Berger. Detroit journalist Mark Stryker, too, in his research for his forthcoming book on Detroit jazz, also takes issue with Grant and some of my assumptions. Like Dodgion and Kirchner, he disputes that all the tunes on Grant's CD are from 7 February and says there are two separate dates. The reason for the discrepancy mostly stems from them having heard recordings of the band made at the Vanguard that exist at the Thad Jones Archive at William Paterson University. 

In Joy Road (pages 150-52) I discuss the situation as I saw it just prior to publication in 2012. At that time I hadn't known about the two CDs at the Archive but only had the Alan Grant CD. Based upon the excellent recording quality of Grant's CD, the fact that Grant had a show on WABC-FM that routinely broadcasted live performances in New York City clubs, and that Grant was also actively promoting at that time on his show Pepper, Thad and Mel, I felt that the music likely emanated from ABC Radio. It turns out, however, that a nineteen-year-old self-taught engineer, George Klabin, who at the time (1965-69) had an evening jazz radio show on WKCR, recorded Thad and Mel's performance at the Vanguard. 

I interviewed George Klabin on 23 April 2014 to find out more about the recording's pedigree and to once and for all try to solve the riddles that remain about this great music. Klabin now lives in Los Angeles and runs Resonance Records ( His company specializes in releasing historically important jazz recordings, many that Klabin recorded live in clubs and for which he still retains legal ownership. Klabin developed a reputation around New York in the mid-60s for recording jazz musicians well and affordably. He would lug his own equipment into nightclubs, record musicians, then play some of it on his radio show. Klabin promoted these recordings to his listeners as music they'd never hear anywhere else. One of the first things he recorded was Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden for George Avakian that became an important early Jarrett demo. Another is a Bill Evans date. See the label's site for a roster of recordings.

Alan Grant and George Klabin were DJ colleagues in New York City. One day in early 1966 Grant called Klabin. He told him there was a new all-star big band that was playing their first gig at the Village Vanguard. Grant needed a recording. Would Klabin do it? Sure. Klabin brought six mics and was given two cocktail tables near the pole where Pepper Adams sat (at the far stage-left side of the club) to set up his Crown two-track stereo 7.5 ips recorder. He mixed everything live in his headphones. After the gig, he gave Alan Grant a copy and that was it. I doubt Klabin played any of the music on his own radio show. Klabin did confess that he was "completely blown away" by the band. He knew right away that this was a band unlike any other. 

A few weeks later Grant asked Klabin to return to the Vanguard on 21 March to record the band a second time. For that gig Klabin used 10 mics. Klabin said the band sounded even better. More polished, for one thing. For both gigs Klabin ended up with several hours of music.

Fast forward 34 years. To make a fast buck Alan Grant decides to bootleg a bunch of tunes from these two nights. Although Klabin owns the rights, Grant never got permission from Klabin to release it, never credited Klabin as the engineer and never paid the musicians. Essentially, Grant did an end run and went to BMG/New Zealand to print 2,500 copies. Jason Blackhouse (from Auckland), not Klabin, is credited as the engineer and liner note verbiage throughout only trumpets the 7 February recording date. As David Demsey, director of the Thad Jones Archive has pointed out, the implication is that Blackhouse was the engineer on hand at the Vanguard. Moreover, misleading listeners into believing that all the material derives from the first gig was equally duplicitous.

When Klabin learned about the release he was furious. He hired a detective to find Grant, who was living in Florida. Klabin telephoned Grant and said bluntly, "What's going on here? How can you do this without giving anyone credit?" Grant replied contritely, "I know, it wasn't a good idea." Klabin left it at that.

Grant's bootleg is long sold out but a copy exists at William Paterson. Two CDs worth of Klabin's original tapes, presumably given to Thad Jones by Alan Grant, have been transferred from reel-to-reel and are there as well. A third reel may be missing, says Klabin, but he believes he still might have even more material. Fortunately, personnel for each night is specified on Klabin's tape boxes. 

Thanks to the work of David Demsey, who meticulously compared all the recordings, here's what's on the two Klabin CDs versus Grant's bootleg (see parenthetical comments):

7 February 1966
CD #1:
1. All My Yesterdays (unissued)
2. All My Yesterdays (released by Grant)
3. Back Bone (unissued)
4. Big Dipper (unissued)
5. Big Dipper (unissued)
6. Mean What You Say (released by Grant)
7. Mornin' Reverend (released by Grant
8. The Little Pixie (released by Grant)
9. Willow Weep for Me (released by Grant)

21 March 1966

10. Once Around (released by Grant)

CD #2:
1. A--That's Freedom (unissued)
2. All My Yesterdays (unissued)
3. Back Bone (unissued)
4. Big Dipper (unissued)
5. Don't Ever Leave Me (released by Grant)
6. The Little Pixie (unissued)
7. Lover Man (released by Grant)
8. Low Down (unissued)
9. Mornin' Reverend (unissued)
10. Willow Weep for Me (unissued)

What else does Klabin have and did a third reel he recorded get lost? What's the derivation of three tunes from Grant's CD--Big Dipper, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, and Low Down--that Demsey asserts is neither on Grant's or Klabin's CDs? What's the complete personnel of each date? Klabin has promised to clear up the remaining mysteries. Fortunately, since our interview he's already had the time to look at his tape boxes from 7 February and 21 March to at least confirm that Marv Holladay, not Pepper Adams, was on the 7 February date. Conversely, Pepper appears on the 21 March date in place of Holladay. 

I'll write about any new discoveries in a future blog post, then list the new entry at "Joy Road (Discography) Updates" ( at According to Jerry Dodgion, Klabin has wanted to produce these important recordings since Grant's release to correct the historical record and get the music out the right way. Hopefully Klabin will release his definitive version soon, in its original running order, especially with Thad's announcements, and maybe even with Alant Grant as emcee? For Klabin, these brilliant Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra performances remain the greatest recordings he's ever made.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Day the Earth Stood Still for Thad and Mel

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

The morning of Thursday, 11 July 1968 started triumphantly for the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. The band assembled at the Northwest Orient ticket counter at New York's JFK Airport where they were met by an exuberant throng of family and friends who were commemorating the band's first trip overseas. The orchestra was scheduled to fly to Seattle then Tokyo to begin an eleven day tour of Japan. Thad Jones and Roland Hanna had been to Japan before but most of the band had not, so there was a tremendous air of excitement. Seven musicians--Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Snooky Young, Garnett Brown, Seldon Powell, Eddie Daniels, and Richard Davis--paid $700 in advance to Elvin Jones Productions for their wives to join them on the trip, and Richard Davis also brought along his infant child.  

The tour was built by Elvin's girlfriend, Keiko, whose father was a wealthy shoe manufacturer in Yokohama. Already very Westernized in her way of doing things, Keiko had no prior experience doing concert promotion. An itinerary of gigs and lodging in numerous cities, as arranged by Keiko, was distributed in advance of the trip and everyone was instructed to meet at the airport where they would pick up their tickets then fly West.

The celebratory mood ended when everyone learned that airplane tickets would not arrive and the band would not be traveling that day. Fortuitously, Thad's attorney was flying elsewhere out of JFK that day and came by to help. Calls were placed to the Japanese and American Embassies to sort out the dilemma, but Thad's lawyer learned that restrictions existed on how much money could be transferred on a given day between U.S and Japanese banks. He was also told that in the absence of a contract, nothing could be done to find Keiko or any specific party liable. Thad and Mel were running out of options.

Those in the band that pre-paid for their wives were, as Jerry Dodgion put it, "doubly pissed off" because they began to suspect that they'd be losing out on a trip, several weeks of work, and their deposit. As Mel Lewis told me in 1988, the possibility of a mutiny was growing by the minute. While Thad, Mel, their attorney, and the orchestra's band boy (Red Keller) tried to sort things out, the future of the band stood in the balance.

It's not clear how naive Mel Lewis and Thad Jones were about how business is done, but, according to Jerry Dodgion, in a recent interview, Keiko was certainly deceiving Thad, Mel and everyone else. According to Dodgion, Keiko kept assuring Mel that the tour's money was forthcoming, saying that everything was going to be OK and not to worry because her father was a wealthy industrialist. Little did Thad and Mel know that Keiko's father had disowned her after learning that she was dating Elvin. Nor were they aware that Keiko told Japanese promoters to "fuck off" because she wouldn't play along with the Japanese system--corrupt from a Westerner's perspective--of paying off people who demanded a cut for helping her get in touch with Japanese promoters. 

Prior to the airport fiasco, Thad, Mel, Keiko and the Japanese photographer K. Abe went to a Japanese bank in New York to get an update on the tour's funding. All conversation was in Japanese. Keiko translated for Thad and Mel and said that all was OK. But afterwards Abe told Thad and Mel that Keiko's rosy version was not the case at all and what the Japanese bankers in New York were telling Keiko instead was that there was absolutely no money available for the band.

At one point, when things looked extremely grim at JFK, Thad called his brother. In an understated, concise, and ironic turn of phrase that both Jerry Dodgion and Pepper Adams thought was remarkably appropriate, Thad said to his brother in a very stern tone of voice, "Elvin? Do you know any good spirituals?" 

Ultimately, Red Keller came up with a solution. He asked Thad and Mel if either of them had an American Express Card. Both answered that they did. "Well, buy the tickets with them!" replied Keller. That's how the band got overseas. Thad and Mel charged one-way tickets for the band and its entire retinue because their credit cards gave them 30-day terms and they'd be back in two weeks.

Their flight to Seattle departed at the same time the following morning, but this time without the hoopla. Trumpeter Danny Moore forgot his passport and had to retrieve it and fly the next day. The band finally arrived in Tokyo in the late afternoon and checked into an airport hotel. This was the first indication that the itinerary was awry. The band nonetheless had a big celebratory dinner that night at their hotel. At the end of the evening, however, Pepper got really drunk and unruly and tried to "take" Thad outside. Had Pepper sensed that the band wasn't going to get paid?

Each day the band didn't know what they'd be doing until around 2pm. Ultimately, all gigs took place in Tokyo except for one in Yokohama. Only one gig from Keiko's original itinerary was retained, to her credit at a well-known Tokyo venue. Another gig, at the Pit Inn, possibly lasted for 3 nights. Admission was $5 and the band never got paid for any of them.

Even after the difficulties at JFK and the degree to which Thad and Mel had to scramble in Japan to secure gigs, a major problem still remained: The band was stranded in Japan without any way to return. The final act of the drama played out thanks to the extraordinary generosity of K. Abe, who lent Mel his life savings to get the band back to New York. Then Mel leveraged his residence with a secondary mortgage to pay Abe back for the tickets. According to Mel Lewis, Thad and Mel also paid off their credit cards by leveraging their homes and it took quite some time to pay it off.

After the band left Japan for the U.S., Eddie Daniels stayed behind to record with Terumasa Hino's group (that included bassist Kunimitsu Inaba). Upon Daniels' return to New York, a Northwest Orient employee at the Seattle airport counter asked if he was a member of that big band that just went to Japan? Acknowledging that he was a member, Daniels was told that Thad and Mel's return flight broke the airline's record for the most liquor ever consumed. Back then, little glass liquor bottles were given out for free and some in the band, such as Bob Brookmeyer, were very heavy drinkers. "They really got their money's worth," said Jerry Dodgion.

The reason for my new research into the 1968 Japanese tour is the occasion of saxophonist Frank Basile's discovery of a Japanese website, The site, among other things, lists a possible recording--either a radio broadcast or an audience recording--that would be the first recording ever found of a performance from the 1968 Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra's tour of Japan. Frank and I are trying to determine if the recording exists. Once confirmed it will be added to "Joy Road (Discography) Updates" at

Here's the details of the possible recording, with my appended annotation. Thanks again to Jerry Dodgion and Richard Davis for their help in sorting out the personnel, etc:

THAD JONES-MEL LEWIS ORCHESTRA                                                                          680720
20 July 1968, audience recording or radio broadcast, Pit Inn, Tokyo: Thad Jones flh; Bob Brookmeyer vtb; Jimmy Knepper, Garnett Brown tb; Cliff Heather btb; Jerry Dodgion as, fl; Jerome Richardson as, cl, fl; Seldon Powell ts; Eddie Daniels ts; Pepper Adams bs; Roland Hanna p; Kunimitsu Inaba b; Mel Lewis dm.

a Lover Man
b Bachafillen
c unknown title
d Don't Git Sassy
e Back Bone
f Don't Ever Leave Me
g St. Louis Blues
-c is a solo piano feature.
According to bassist Richard Davis, in a 2014 email to the author, Davis left the gig early and Inaba took his place. Because the Pit Inn was a small room for a big band, it's conceivable that Thad Jones scaled the band down to twelve pieces and Davis left the club along with the entire trumpet section before the final set.
This is the only known recorded gig from the band's first "tour" of Japan. Elvin Jones' future wife, Keiko, had agreed to put together eleven days worth of gigs. There was a great deal of excitement because this was the band's first overseas trip. An itinerary of events was given in advance to members of the band. On the morning of 11 July the band, along with seven of the musicians' wives, waited at JFK Airport to board a plane but the promised tickets never arrived at the gate. Thad Jones and Mel Lewis were left with no alternative but to charge the tickets on their American Express cards, without which the orchestra might've dissolved. To make matters worse, despite the itinerary, only one gig was arranged for the band in advance. The orchestra was in limbo each day until gigs could be acquired. The photographer K. Abe lent his life savings to pay for airplane tickets to get the group back to New York. After Mel Lewis returned, he paid Abe back by leveraging his residence with a second mortgage.
According to Jerry Dodgion, Jerome Richardson made the trip and the trumpet section on the tour was Snooky Young, Jimmy Nottingham, Danny Moore and Richard Williams. Richard Davis remembered the following: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Richard Williams, Garnett Brown, Bob Brookmeyer, Cliff Heather, Eddie Daniels, Pepper Adams and Roland Hanna.