Saturday, July 18, 2015

Growing Up in Rochester, 1935-1947

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

For the last few weeks I've been reading Blake McKelvey's history of Rochester. McKelvey, one of America's greatest urban historians, wrote, among many books about Rochester, his definitive four-volume study: Rochester: The Water-Power City, 1812-1854; Rochester: The Flower City, 1855-1890; Rochester: The Quest for Quality, 1890-1925; and Rochester: An Emerging Metropolis, 1925-1961. Fortunately for me, late in his life, McKelvey abridged his roughly 1600 page study into one 300-page volume, Rochester on the Genesee. I read this book up to his account of 1929, then turned to the original fourth volume, that I read from 1929 until mid-1947, when Adams left Rochester for Detroit. What I was after was a basic understanding of Rochester's origins as a city, but I wanted the specificity that the original study would give me about Pepper Adams' time in Rochester and how the Great Depression was navigated by its citizens beginning slightly before Pepper arrived.

I've learned much about the derivation and makeup of Rochester, but McKelvey's accounts of what went on during Pepper's boyhood is really fascinating. Even as a young grade-school student (ages eleven to fourteen), Adams wouldn't have been immune to all the things going on in Rochester on behalf of the war effort. Here's some of my notes about his Rochester experience, in no apparent order:

With Defense Department orders coming into Rochester factories in the late 1930s as a response to war in Europe, the last traces of the Great Depression ended. By late 1940, as the United States clung to its neutrality while Hitler invaded countries in Europe, Rochesterians were involved in numerous war relief drives, and the sale of defense bonds and scrap drives. According to McKelvey, "the first scrap metal drive collected over twenty tons of aluminum. A paper-salvage campaign quickly eliminated all danger of a shortage in that field. Awakening to the value of scrap metal, the City Council halted its plan to cover old trolley tracks with asphalt and undertook the more laborious task of salvaging them for scrap."

As a ten-year-old boy, Pepper Adams would have heard, observed, read or participated in all sorts of activity taking place around him in response to the war. Many citizens listened to President Franklin Roosevelt's "fireside chats" throughout the 1930s and Adams likely heard some of these with his parents as they continued throughout the war. 

Virtually every organization in Rochester was eager to help with the war effort. The Boy Scouts and Automobile Club helped itemize cars that could assist in an evacuation of the city, the Society of Engineers surveyed buildings suitable as bomb shelters, the League of Women Voters distributed information about various defense provisions and devised an example of a "blackout room," county staff drew up contingency plans for the evacuation of 20,000 Rochesterians, and school children were asked to fill out a questionnaire indicating if they needed special assistance in the event of an evacuation. A series of practice exercises took place in Rochester to test blackouts.

As per McKelvey: "The technical facilities of many Rochester firms attracted a flood of defense contracts exceeding $75 million in total value by the end of August, 1941. . . . Defense contracts brought a surge in employment." 

After the invasion of Pearl Harbor, many Rochesterians joined the military and, according to McKelvey,  "local officials hastily stationed emergency police at several vital points--notably the airport, the reservoirs, and the New York Central Bridge across the Genesee River. Defense industries increased their guards; 400 legionnaires voluntarily manned a series of air-raid posts; both the city and county defense councils engaged full-time staffs and prepared to operate on a war basis. When a hastily announced blackout demonstrated some of the inadequacies of the earlier civilian defense provisions, jittery residents readily backed measures for improvement; some called for an effective roundup of all enemy aliens. . . . With the outbreak of war, the President designated all Japanese, German and Italian nationals as enemy aliens and required them to turn in to the police all cameras, shortwave radio sets, and firearms. . . . The city and county war councils sprang quickly into action." 2600 volunteered for air-raid duty, 500 as auxiliary firemen, 1000 as aircraft-spotters, 1000 as auxiliary police and 400 for a civilian air patrol. The Red Cross were tasked with training nurses for possible emergencies. Volunteers prepared thousands of first aid kits and a blood bank was established. 

Unlike the war-bond drives in World War I that were intermittent, Adams would have recognized the incessant war bond drives of his era. As a citizen, he would have participated in the scrap-metal drives too, though it's not known to what extent school children participated. In 1941, Rochester collected of 20 tons of aluminum; in 1942 the city exceeded 1000 tons. Rubber salvage netted 300 tons. Rochester barbers collected in two months 240,000 used razor blades. Some 200 tons of tin cans were collected. Besides metal and other common scrap, housewives were also asked to salvage fats from its garbage.

According to McKelvey, "It was in the great scrap-metal drive of October [1942] that the community as a whole outdid itself. A skillful newspaper campaign, featuring the achievements of other communities, prepared the way. The Junior Chamber enrolled several hundred volunteer scrap sorters who turned out on five holidays to help speed the metal to hungry foundries. Because of the great number and generous size of the curbstone scrap piles, the scheduled collections, on October 24, was prolonged over a period of several weeks." 

Rationing was another effect of the war. Sales of tires and sugar were limited, as were the sale of meat, shoes, new cars, typewriters, bicycles and other scarce items. Ration books were distributed, and hundreds of teachers and volunteers scrutinized more than a half a million applicants for coffee, gasoline, building materials and other items. Because of gas rationing, bus traffic became more common as a form of transportation.

Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year's celebrations were observed quietly at home, McKelvey writes, due to the continuing war effort and out of respect to returning servicemen.

Nine blackout tests took place in 1943.

The summer of 1944 attracted high-school students and teachers to help with harvest as labor for the war effort was siphoning off all able-bodied men, women and even POWs.

Even despite 7000 of its employees working for the war effort, Eastman Kodak expanded its operation during the war. By December, 1944 it employed 29,000 workers.

Red Cross and Community Chest drives were also successful in raising funds and collecting used clothing for war relief.

A victory-garden program enrolled 30,000 volunteer gardeners in 1943 and 1944 to alleviate any food shortages.

The Rochester park system, one of America's best, was maintained at full capacity during the war, even with a budget austerity in place, as seen in other city programs.

A severe snow storm, the worst in 40 years, took place on December 11-12, 1944.
Another winter storm paralyzed the city on Nov 29, 1945.

Rochester was very proactive and ahead of the curve regarding its unemployment situation after the Crash of 1929. In February 1931, Kodak and thirteen other large Rochester companies established unemployment insurance for its workers. Relief work for the unemployed was established in 1931 and again in 1932, with matching funds from the state. 250 acres were given to 2000 families as "self-help gardens" to grow food. The program was sustained the following year and for years to come. A large bond was supported by local banks for relief work and city services after Franklin D. Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933. All of this was established before Roosevelt's New Deal reforms were rolled out in the U.S.

                (Acclaimed historian Blake McKelvey.)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

8-Tracks Galore!

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

How about a break from Rochester, New York? Although my work continues, and it remains continually fascinating to me, I thought I'd take a diversion and revisit an old thread from a few months ago. Do you remember my discussion of Pepper Adams' 8-track collection? I wrote about it in conjunction with the Rex Stewart material that Pepper recorded to amuse himself. Pepper's 8-track collection provides all sorts of clues into what he liked, what was in his collection, and what he liked to listen to while cruising around from gig to gig in around 1965-1975.

Here a guided tour to his collection, that I eagerly scooped up with his Wollensak 8-track player (see when his widow, Claudette, allowed me to take anything I wanted as she was disposing of Pepper's belongings in late 1986.

It's hard to determine what ones Pepper actually purchased and what ones he might have obtained along the way. If there's any one he would have bought, however, it's Flanagan's 1975 solo recital on Pablo of all Ellington/Strayhorn compositions!

1. Duke Ellington, Greatest Hits (with Solitude, Caravan, Mood Indigo, The  Hawk Talks, Sophisticated Lady, The Mooch, VIP Boogie and Accentuate.
2. Donald Byrd, Street Lady.
3. Coleman Hawkins, Sirius.
4. Miles Davis, Filles de Kilimanjaro.
5. Yusef Lateef, Suite 16.
6. The  Trumpet Kings Meet Joe Turner.
7. Chick Corea, Light As a Feather.
8. Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain.
9. Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 6 and 7.
10. The Definitive Jazz Scene, Vol. 1 (Impulse)
11. Tommy Flanagan, Tokyo Recital.

There's one overview of early Rex Stewart material that Pepper put together and would have originally enjoyed when he was growing up in Rochester (1935-1947). All of the material is pre-1945 work, mostly with Ellington. I discussed this in an earlier post:

Here's six tapes Adams prepared, four from air checks.

1. Scrapple from the Apple, Groovin' High, Anthropology, Now's the Time, Bird of Paradise, Ornithology, Koko, Cheryl, Dizzy Atmosphere, This Time the Dream's on Me, 'Round About Midnight, Move, Out of Nowhere, Cool Blues, 52nd Street Theme, Scrapple from the Apple, Moose the Mooche.

2. Blue 'n Boogie, Anthropology, 'Round About Midnight, Night in Tunisia, Shaw 'Nuff, Hot House, Groovin' High, Slow Boat to China, Be-Bop, Ooh-Bop-She-Bam, Scrapple from the Apple, Be-Bop, Hot House, Cheryl, Salt Peanuts, How High the Moon, Big Foot, Salt Peanuts, Out of Nowhere, Parker's Mood.

3. Dial recordings: Drifting on a Reed, Out of Nowhere, Moose the Mooche, Bongo Bop, Cheers, Bird of Paradise, Dexterity, Bongo Beep, Dark Shadows, Scrapple from the Apple, Relaxin' at Camarillo, Klactoveesedstene, Don't Blame Me, Dewey Square, Ornithology, Out of Nowhere, Bird Feathers, Quasimodo, Hallelujah, Bird of Paradise, Dexterity, Bongo Bop, Klactoveesedstene, My Old Flame, Bird's Nest.

4. At the Cafe Society Downtown: Just Friends, April in Paris, Bewitched, Summertime, I Cover the Waterfront, Gone with the Wind, Easy to Love.
At the William Henry Apartments: Half Nelson, Cherokee, Scrapple from the Apple, Star Eyes, Bernie's Tune, Donna Lee, Out of Nowhere, Half Nelson, Fine and Dandy, Little Willie Leaps, All the Things You Are
In Malmo: Lover Man, Cool Blues, Anthropology 
With Milt Buckner: Groovin' High.

5. Bird at the Pershing Ballroom (Chicago, 1950): Indiana, I Can't Get Started, Anthropology, Out of Nowhere, Get Happy, Hot House, Embraceable You, Body and Soul, Cool Blues, Stardust, All the Things You Are, Billie's Bounce, Pennies from Heaven.

6. Dial recordings: various well know titles, including Dewey Square, The Break, Embraceable You, Cool Blues, How Deep Is the Ocean, Crazeology, Relaxin' at Camarillo, etc.

Here's the contents of two 8-tracks that Pepper prepared. The first five cuts of #2 are from The Magnificent Thad Jones, Volume II.

1. Compulsory, All of Us, Zec, Alone Together, Cross Purpose, Scratch, Forever Summer, Let's, Blue Room, Tiptoe, Zec, Played Twice, Brother Peabody, Black Light.

2. April in Paris, Billie-Doo, If I Love Again, If Someone Had Told Me, Thedia, Lady Luck, You Don't Know What Love Is, Osie's Oasis, I Mean You, Balanced Scales = Justice, Ill Wind, Quince, I'll Remember April.

Six tapes of solo, duo and trio recordings.

1. with Reggie Workman and Joe Chambers: Pent-Up House, Condado Beach, Let's Call This, So Sorry Please, Ballad, Milestones, Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, Night in Tunisia, Some Day My Prince Will Come, Autumn Leaves, It's All Right with Me, Angle Eyes, Straight Mo Chaser;
with George Mraz and Elvin Jones: Cup Bearers.

2. solo and trio: Parisian Thoroughfare, In Your Own Sweet Way, Like a Butterfly, Here's That Rainy Day, Alone Too Long, Maybe September, Strollin', Glad to Be Unhappy, No More, That Old Devil Called Love, Barbados, Some Other Spring, Easy Living, Woody 'n' You, Star-Crossed Lovers, Jump for Joy, Blue Bossa, Peace, Friday the 13th

3. Flanagan solos, as a sideman, with: 
Eddie Davis: Straight Ahead
Pee Wee Russell Memorial
At Ease with Coleman Hawkins
Introducing Kenny Burrell
Coleman Hawkins-Clark Terry
NY Jazz Sextet
Howard McGhee: Dusty Blue.

4. with Ron Carter and Roy Haynes: 52nd Street Theme, Smooth as the Wind; Passion Flower; Muffin; Ruby, My Dear: Verdandi; Bess, You Is My Woman Now; Hustle Bustle; Lament; Bean and the Boys; In Walked Bud; Ultima Thule; The Very Thought of You, Dignified Appearance.
with Keeter Betts and J. Smith: Something Borrowed, Something Blue; West Coast Blues; Groovin' High; Bird Song; Good Bait.
with J.J Johnson: Blue Trombone.

5. with Joe Benjamin and "Doc": America, Lonely Town; Tonight, It's Love; Lucky to Be Me; Glitter, Be Gay; Make Our Garden Grow.
with Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Arthur Taylor: Yesterdays, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, Chasin' the Bird, Dear Old Stockholm, The Theme, Confessin'.
duet with Hank Jones: Our Delight, Autumn Leaves, Robbins' Nest.

6. Super Session (with Red Mitchell and Elvin Jones): Django, Minor Perhaps, Too Late Now, I Love You, Rachel's Rondo, Things Ain't What They Used to Be.
Plays Howard Arlen (with George Mraz and Connie Kay): Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Over the Rainbow, Sleepin' Bee, Ill Wind, Out of This World, One for My Baby, Get Happy, My Shining Hour, Last Night When We Were Young.

Any one know who the drummer "Doc" is in #5 above? Next week, or whenever I resume this inventory, I'll get deeper into Pepper's collection. Have a great week!

                         (Tommy Flanagan)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Letter to Noal

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Here's a post in the form of a letter. I sent it to Rochester drummer and author Noal Cohen, who has helped me with my research of early Rochester jazz. Cohen currently lives in New Jersey, but worked with Chuck Mangione and Ron Carter in Rochester when he lived there in the late 1950s. He's the esteemed coauthor of Rat Race Blues, the biography of Gigi Gryce.

Hi Noal: I'm making great progress on the early days. I'll be doing one last interview tomorrow night with 88-year-old Fred Remington, Dave Remington's first cousin. He was a Tatum-style pianist who became a psychiatrist. He knew all the cats in the 1940s, including Herbie Brock. I'm hopeful he can put a useful spin on that time and answer some of my remaining questions. 

With my various interviews, I now have a composite of those times, including how bop was slowly incorporated into Rochester's music. I'll be writing it up in a blog post. That post will also include some other research I've done about Rochester jazz in the early 1950s--not germane to my Pepper biography, of course--but it will include a mention of a clique of musicians, Jon Hendricks among them, and so forth.

It doesn't sound like the Frederick Douglass Voice covered the jazz scene. In my interview with saxophonist Ralph Dickinson, who read the paper then, he said that his six-month gig at the Elite wasn't mentioned in the Voice. Considering that, it seems doubtful it ever was mentioned during the time Pepper played in the band. Because of that, I've decided not to visit the Rochester Museum and peruse back issues. I have descriptions of the Elite from two different sources and that will suffice. The building and general area was torn down to build the Inner Loop [highway], so I'm not even visiting it to take photographs. I also get the sense that Howard Coles' radio shows were gospel oriented and inspirational in nature, plus I guess he relied on his sources and his newspaper work to also speak about affairs of the day? 

The radio shows that would interest me are Raymond Murphy programs on WRNY in 1946 and '47, if any exist, because Pepper had some input into their preparation and listened to them while in high school. I've been told that a large collection of old radio programs are housed at St. John Fisher College. I'm researching that to see if they possibly exist, but it's a long shot indeed. 

I've also been in touch with a blues harpist, Tom Hanney, who is on the faculty of RIT and is doing original research on the blues scene in Rochester. It looks like it doesn't go back that far, but, very significantly, Son House lived in obscurity in Rochester from the early 1940s until he was rediscovered by Alan Wilson of Canned Heat in the mid-1960s. I've asked Tom to try to determine whether House got any press or even occasionally surfaced to do a gig here and there when Pepper lived in Rochester. At this point, it seems doubtful but we'll see.

The series from the D&C [newspaper], "Whatever Happened to . . . ," gives me all sorts of color about what Rochester was like in the first half of the century. I'll be relying on that to give my chapter some more depth. There's a monograph written by Curt Gerling called Smugtown that was published in the 1940s in the American Journal of Sociology that I'd like to see. It measures the moral index of Rochester (disguised by the euphemism "Gorge City.")

An important urban history of Rochester was written in four volumes by Blake McKelvey, originally by Harvard U. Press. That's also something I'd like to check out. Volume 4 seems like the one I want. 

Lastly, I'll be getting a thumb drive of info from Doug Duke researcher Sheron Dixon Wahl with all sorts of data on it. Clearly, Duke was one of the pioneers of the jazz organ and important in that way. He played for many years at Squeezer's.

I'll write my last historical blog post about Rochester, then send you the link. I'd be pleased if you could add it with my other ones to your site. It will in some ways be the core of my RIT talk on October 21.

All the best,
Gary Carner

                                     (Drummer Noal Cohen)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Frederick Douglass Voice and Other Ephemera

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

The family is away for a few weeks, giving me a great opportunity to get lots of Pepper work done. The first thing to do is to prepare for a follow-up interview with Dave Schiff, about whom I wrote a few weeks ago. Also, Im going to listen again to my Rochester interviews to prepare for an interview with Paul Remingtons father, Frederick. Frederick is Rochester trombonist Dave Remingtons first cousin and a fine Tatum-influenced pianist in his own right. Frederick Remington was on the scene in the mid-1940s when Adams was in Rochester. He knew a lot of the important musicians, including pianist Herbie Brock. Additionally, he trained as a psychiatrist. As a musician and a student of behavior, he might have insights regarding the personalities of that time. 

Along with Brock and Remington, the third leg of the 1940s-Rochester-musician stool is Doug Duke. Im receiving from researcher Sheron Wahl a set of interviews that she did about Duke, most significantly with Paul Preo and Dick Mulhaney. Both knew Duke in 1945. Heres what Wahl told me about Preo:
At some point along the way I met Paul Preo, a Kodak engineer who lived in Rochester NY and who discovered Doug Duke at Squeezers back in 1945. Paul loved tinkering with the latest recording devices available. He began recording Doug while he still worked at Joe Squeezer’s and continued to record him until shortly before Doug’s death. Discovering Paul Preo along with his hundreds of recordings and memories was like discovering a gold mine. Paul and I worked together gathering materials to develop the Doug Duke page.  
Trying to learn more about that time in Rochester, and to contextualize everything that went on, Ive been working to locate a run of the Frederick Douglass Voice, the most important Rochester black newspaper of the 20th Century. Thanks to University of Rochester research librarian Melissa Mead, whos been extraordinarily helpful, I reached archivists at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The Museum houses what seems to be a complete set of the newspaper. Generally referred to as The Voice, because it changed names several times, heres an overview of its incredible 63-year pedigree:

The Voice: October, 1933- November, 1942
The Rochester Voice: June, 1943- December, 1947
The Voice of New York: January, 1948- November, 1949
The Frederick Douglass Voice: January, 1950- July, 1960
The New Negro Voice: December, 1960- January, 1961
The Rochester Voice: October, 1961- March, 1967
The Frederick Douglass Voice: July, 1967- May, 1996

One of the Museums librarians sent me a Finding Aid to their Coles Collection. From the Coles website is this description of Howard Wilson Coles: The legacy that Coles has left through this collection is unparalleled, not only in this community but also in the nation. It sheds light on the remarkable career of a trailblazer in human rights activism, journalism, history and culture, and at the same time offers a sweeping look at 20th century America.
See Coles Collection and

Because jazz researchers dont know about this Collection, as my tribute to Howard Coles and the astounding (and probably little known) work he did, heres an excerpt from the Finding AidHistorical/Biographical Note about him (with footnotes deleted and lightly edited):

Howard Wilson Coles was born on November 12, 1903 in Belcoda, New York. His family came to the Rochester area from Culpepper, Virginia in the 1880s. Howard was the grandson of the Reverend Clayton A. Coles, former “body servant” of Confederate General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson and later founder of the Second Baptist Church of Mumford in the 1890s. Howard was one of two sons born to Charles and Grace Coles. Howard spent his childhood in Mumford, New York, [not far from Rochester,] and attended Scottsville High School. By his own admission he was not interested in an education and left at the age of fifteen to work and earn money to buy his own things. (He later regretted his decision and earned a diploma in June, 1947 from East Evening High School in Rochester, New York.) After traveling throughout the Northeast in the 1920s, working as a hotel bellboy and a waiter, Coles returned to Rochester in the early 1930s and settled there for the remainder of his life.

Coles borrowed $2,800 from his life insurance policy in the early 1930s and with the help of Elsie Scott Kilpatrick established The Voice newspaper. Coles published and distributed the newspaper throughout Western New York from 1933 through 1996 and, at its apex, circulation reached approximately 10,000 copies. Throughout the newspaper’s life he worked as a real estate agent, insurance sales agent and court attendant to earn enough money to support the publication of the newspaper. The Voice helped chronicle the lives of African-Americans throughout the Twentieth Century and has been recognized as the longest continuously published African-American newspaper in Rochester history.

In 1938, Coles became Rochester’s first African-American radio personality at local radio station WSAY. Over the next forty years, Howard developed several radio shows such as The Vignettes, The Gospel Hour, The Bronze Trombones, and The King Coles Show. These shows provided entertainment and served as a sounding board for relevant issues in the African-American community.

The unhealthy living conditions in Rochester under which some African-American families were forced to survive during the late 1930s may have started Coles on his lifelong activist role. The New York State Legislature credited Coles in 1938 with conducting the first documented housing survey of Rochester’s low-income families. Information he presented to the New York State Temporary Commission of the Condition of the Urban Colored Population was later published in the 1939 report. City Manager Baker appointed Coles to the City Wide Housing Committee of the City of Rochester to help alleviate the poor conditions documented in the survey. 

In 1939, Coles published the City Directory of Negro Business and Progress, which documented the socioeconomic progress of Rochester’s African-American community since 1926. He also authored The Cradle of Freedom, a history of Rochester’s African-American community, which was published by Oxford Press in 1941. Coles compiled “The Negro Family in Rochester,” documenting the African-American community’s progress during a century of living in Rochester, and “Nomads of the South,” illustrating the journey of various migrant groups to upstate New York. Neither work was published in book form but there is evidence that both ran as serials in The Voice newspaper. . . . 

Coles married publicist, dramatist, and journalist Alma Kelso in 1940. The two worked diligently on The Voice and collaborated on several other projects until they divorced in the late 1940s. . . . 

On December 10, 1996, Coles died of complications from pneumonia. Mayor William A. Johnson, Jr. and several other ministers eulogized him at the historic Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, located in Rochester, New York. Coles has been called a “trailblazer” and the heir to his hero, Frederick Douglass.

Ive yet to determine the extent of Coles coverage of Rochesters black entertainment scene but Im intrigued by its possibilities and encouraged by the fact that Coles had several radio shows. It looks like Ill be spending some time at the Museum when Im in Rochester!

                          (Howard Wilson Coles in the studio of radio station WSAY)

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Early Rochester Jazz Scene

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Why hasn't anyone written about Rochester's early jazz history? During the last few weeks I've been corresponding with reference librarians at the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. Nothing has been written about pre-1950s Rochester jazz, at least that they can locate. Lewis Porter suggested I contact Eastman because the most likely place for any work on early Rochester jazz would have been done by an Eastman student. As it turns out, if a paper or thesis on the topic was ever done at Eastman, it hasn't been saved by the library. For that matter, nothing in the way of pertinent clippings or articles at any library has turned up. Why?

As far as I can put it together, it's a multifactorial issue, although, admittedly, I'm still early in the gathering process. I do know that Eastman professor Everett Gates only established the very first jazz workshop at Eastman in the summer of 1959, one year after returning to Eastman after ten years (1948-58) of teaching at Oklahoma City University. He established his Eastman jazz arranging workshop in the midst of a fair amount of indifference (or should I say "hostility?") against jazz. Since that pioneering two-week class (at which Pepper Adams was the guest soloist), Eastman's jazz program has grown into one of the finest jazz programs in the world, graduating countless outstanding musicians, such as Ron Carter, Bob Sheppard and John Fedchock.

As a Rochester institution, The Eastman School goes back to 1921, when it was established by George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak. According to Wikipedia, "After a one-year interim under Acting Director Raymond Wilson, the young American composer and conductor Howard Hanson was appointed director of the school in 1924. Dr. Hanson is credited for transforming the Eastman School into one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the world." Hanson retired in 1964, after running the school for forty years. He still ran Eastman when Gates arrived. As I see it, Eastman set the tone for music performed in Rochester and Hanson set the tone for Eastman. Clearly, jazz wasn't part of the agenda under his watch. Eastman's summer session, however, was less restrictive. As Everett Gates told me, jazz, to some degree, was at first snuck in during the summer, when Hanson was out of town.

Apart from institutional indifference towards jazz, in 1935-47, when Pepper Adams lived in Rochester, the makeup of Rochester's black population was another mitigating factor in jazz not being embraced. As Rochester resident and University of Rochester sociology professor Raymond Murphy explained to me, African-Americans in Rochester comprised only 1% of the city's population. As a very small subculture of around 3,400 people, Murphy said, they were mostly well-educated, middle-class citizens that historically regarded jazz quite poorly. That's not to say that black clubs didn't exist or thrive in Rochester. It's just that blacks in Rochester who supported the music were, in Murphy's view, very few in number.

How did Eastman's curriculum and the prevailing sentiments of Rochester's black community in the 1940s affect coverage in the press about jazz? Was it an anomaly as compared to other cities of its size at that time? Perhaps this is a question for cultural historian John Gennari, who has written extensively about the history of jazz criticism in America. To what degree did local Rochester black newspapers cover jazz? At this point, I don't know, though it doesn't appear to be extensive. Interestingly, from 1847-72 Rochester was home to Frederick Douglass. A newspaper named in his honor, The Frederick Douglass Voice, was established in 1934. How did that publication treat Rochester's music, if at all, and were there others, perhaps regionally? 

I've seen announcements for dance bands and entertainment of all sorts in the 1940's Rochester mainstream press. Several examples are posted here: But until some advocate for the music emerges in the Rochester press of that day, or until I see reporting that's respectful of the art form, it's hard to explain the absence of concert reviews, appreciations and biographical portraits of famous touring musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie as anything other than a barometer of America's pervasive and shameful disregard of African-American culture.

It's understandable that Rochester jazz would not necessarily be one of the more obvious places to research, especially as compared to the enormous amount of activity that took place in New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Kansas City and other large cities. That's not to say that some diehard fan, journalist or disk jockey couldn't have written something about Rochester or broadcasted a retrospective. So far, however, nothing has shown up, and that still strikes me as odd. 

In 1940, Rochester was America's 32nd largest city. Befitting a city of its size, Rochester had a local entertainment community. Rochester did lose many of its players over the years to touring ensembles, to the draw of big cities such as New York and Chicago, or, during Pepper's time growing up there, to World War II. Pepper told me that, during much of his time in Rochester in the 1940s, many of the established Rochester musicians had left to fight in World War II. Acccording to Wikipedia, "Some 29,000 Rochester-area men were drafted into military service." The exodus of male Rochesterians created an opportunty for young players such as Adams to perform with much older musicians who remained. At the Elite Dance Hall, where Adams played in 1946 and half of 1947, that's precisely how it went. The band included former Jimmie Lunceford trumpet player, Ben "Smitty" Smith, and a cigar chomping pianist, Jimmy "The Lion" Stewart. Smith was 62 and Stewart, by all accounts, was close in age. Pepper liked to joke about his time in Rochester doing gigs at age 14-16. "If you could see over the bar," said Adams, "you could get a gig."

A little over an hour away from Rochester is Buffalo. In 1940, Buffalo was America's fourteenth largest city, bigger than New Orleans, Kansas City, Newark or Indianapolis. The US Census for 1950 puts Buffalo's population at 580,132, as compared to the other New York cities of Rochester (332,488), Syracuse (220,583) and Utica (101,531)all dwarfed, of course, as compared to America's largest city, New York, then at 7,891,957. Buffalo was for many years, through at least the mid-1960s, an important part of the touring circuit that musicians regularly visited. In that way, Buffalo was a ribbon that connected cities of the Great Lakes with those on the East Coast. Rochester partook of musicians who toured through the larger cities into secondary- and tertiary-sized ones. At slightly more than half Buffalo's size, Rochester was not a small town. Just prior to America's involvement in World War II, as Wikipedia points out, "by 1940 the population had decreased to 324,975, the first drop since Rochester was founded. It was still the 23rd largest city in the United States."

I knew very little about Rochester in 1988, when I first stepped into the early-Rochester jazz history vacuum. My early moves were a flurry of interviews with people who knew Pepper in the 1941-47 war and postwar period. Much can be learned about that time simply by peeking at the "Early Years" chronology at I'm currently in the process of adding a wealth of new information to it. An update will be posted next week.

As for existing information about Rochester jazz, there is an important collection of material at the University of Rochester. The Hoeffler Collection is comprised of materials from Paul Hoeffler, an avid jazz fan and photographer who lived in Rochester and documented Rochester jazz from about 1955 until the mid-60s. (See His work roughly corresponded with the early growth of Eastman's jazz program. Hoeffler was a very gifted photographer, trained by Ansel Adams, Minor White and others at Rochester Institute of Technology. Hoeffler went on to photograph musicians for Verve, Prestige, Blue Note and Mercury. His stills were used to a great extent in the Ken Burns multi-volume PBS documentary Jazz. Nevertheless, Hoeffler's Rochester work begins about eight years after Pepper moved to Detroit. I can't use it, except maybe to check on a few Adams gigs. As a corollary to Hoeffler's collection is the ongoing research being done by drummer Noal Cohen, who performed in Rochester from 1955-1961. He's assembled this site:

As I wrote last week about pre-1950s Rochester jazz, during the mid-1940s Pepper Adams and trombonist and future sociology professor Raymond Murphy were the best of friends, practicing once a week for more than three years and sharing many experiences around town. I've since learned much more about Murphy from Paul Remington, who serendipitously stumbled upon last week's blog post. It turns out that Remington and Murphy were very close friends too, and Remington wasn't aware, until he read my post, that Murphy had passed away in January, 2015. Remington was trying valiantly to locate Murphy and somehow my piece fell into his lap. 

In not too different a way from how Murphy befriended Pepper Adams, here's Remington's account of Raymond Murphy:

"I was rather curious why this older man would accept me. I was just a twenty-three year old, working as an electrical assembler at the time. He never differentiated people based on status. It all came down to interests and commonalities. I was a fierce music lover with very ecumenical tastes. From 1987 to about 1998 we met weekly for dinner, then a night of jazz listening in his home. He had the largest music collection I have ever seen. I would guess he had close to 100,000 LPs and CDs. I was like a kid in a candy store every time I went in his basement, which is where he had everything very carefully stored and cataloged. It was amazing! Ray taught me the world of classical music, including opera. I would spend forty hours a week working on the line listening to classical stations, then write down every composer I liked. On Friday I would head to his home with the sheet of paper and show it to him. I remember one time he looked at it, his face stretched a wide grin, and he said, 'You have very esoteric tastes!' We’d head to his basement, and of course he had everything on my sheet of paper. He’d pull out things and play them for me, teach me, share material… It was fabulous! I’d come over on Saturday and we’d spend the entire day together, go to music stores, book stores, out to dinner, back to his place and play jazz and classical all night, sometimes into the early hours of the morning. Absolutely wonderful! He was a best friend, mentor, and a father figure all rolled into one. A wonderful man!"

Obviously, Raymond Murphy played a huge role as a mentor to both Paul Remington and, much earlier, Pepper Adams. I'll go into much more detail about Murphy vis-a-vis Rochester's early jazz scene in my Adams biography.

Despite my handwringing about the dearth of information about 1940s Rochester jazz, I'm relieved to say that several key musicians have emerged from my own research who would have been on the scene when Pepper was evolving in Rochester as a young musician. The most important of these, so far at least, are pianist Herbie Brock, trombonist/pianist Dave Remington and organist Doug Duke. Brock, a blind pianist and part-time tenor saxophonist, was arguably the dominant small-group musician in town. He was, according to Raymond Murphy, an Art Tatum disciple who was finally recorded first by Savoy in 1955. A piece done by Marc Myers on Brock (see Brock's recordings and his adoption of a Bud Powell type of pianism. From the little I've heard, Brockmuch like Hank Jones, Barry Harris and other Detroit pianists of that periodmoved away from an overt Tatum sensibility to a more streamlined, less orchestral, swinging, right-hand-dominated approach more akin to Powell. I'm looking forward to hearing more Brock soon.

As for Dave Remington, I've learned much about the Remington family just in the last few days from Paul Remington, his cousin. The Remingtons are a very distinguished Rochester family of musicians, going back to Emory Remington. A fascinating Wikipedia piece discusses Emory Remington's role as a pioneering trombone teacher at Eastman for some sixty years. One of his greatest pupils is jazz trombonist Jim Pugh. Obviously, Dave Remington had as a father the ultimate trombone teacher and I'm eagerly looking forward to hearing recordings that Paul will be providing of Dave Remington in action, including Chicago Shouts and Live at the Abbey. There's nothing at Google about either recording, nor, I'm afraid, much about Dave Remington.

This from Wikipedia about Papa Remington (see

"Emory Brace Remington (1892–1971) was a trombonist and music teacher. His unique method made him one of the most well-known and influential trombone educators in history. He was a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 1923 to 1949, and on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY from 1922 until his death in 1971."

This about Emory and Dave from Paul Remington:

"Emory taught Dave early in his life but Dave was a bit of a rebel. He didn’t want to be confined in the bowels of an orchestra all his life. His sister, Janet, took a different approach. She became a very successful harpist and was a staple of the Pittsburgh Symphony, which was, at one point, under the direction of Andre Previn. She embraced life in an orchestra. But Dave was a bit of a disappointment to Emory. He didn’t want to see Dave live the jazz lifestyle. Dave wanted the freedom that jazz offers. So he left Rochester. I’ll never forget seeing, at Emory’s funeral—which was massive, by the way—David sitting in the pew down from me with tears streaming down his face. I always wondered if he regretted the estrangement he had with his mother and father. I suppose we’ll never know. But he did receive his early training from Emory.

Dave started with trombone and moved to piano later in his life. He was a very good piano player—very talented. He could cross over from trombone to piano quite easily, so on some recordings he's playing piano while on others he's playing trombone. The other aspect of Dave you should know about is his abilities as a leader. He was a natural born leader with a vibrant personality. He could also be very opinionated. In his lifetime, he alienated many people, including three of his four sons. But in terms of musicianship, he had a triune of talents: piano, trombone and band leadership.

The Remington Exercises, developed by Emory, are taught in conservatories all over the world as standard trombone pedagogy. Emory also helped to redefine the physical instrument. He had a different vision for the trombone, and this vision formed a sensibility that was the bedrock of his teaching at Eastman. He wanted to see it elevated as a serious instrument, not just a circus instrument (as it was popularly used in the 19th century). He invented the trombone choir, which is a standard arrangement for trombone formations that is stunning to listen to (in my opinion). Emory was a brilliant man with a natural gift for teaching."

As for Doug Duke, I've learned that Pepper sat in with his band c. 1947 at Squeezer's, a club in downtown Rochester. "Doug Duke," a stage name for Ovidio Fernandez, was Argentinian by birth and came to Rochester in 1920. He was a gifted organist in a Swing Era, pre-Jimmy Smith, Wild Bill Davis kind of style. Duke at one time toured with Lionel Hampton. In the late 1960s, years after Pepper left town, Duke ran The Music Room, a Rochester jazz club in suburban Charlotte, that brought in many great Swing musicians, such as Roy Eldridge and Coleman Hawkins. An informative site explains Duke's life and work:

                 (Emory Remington)

                    (Doug Duke)

                                           (1953 Doug Duke date for Regent)

                            (1961 Herbie Brock date for Art)

                                                    (Herbie Brock c. 1956)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Playing Along with Hawk and the Condon Gang

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I've begun listening to interviews I did about Pepper's early years in Rochester, New York. I'm preparing for a lecture, "Pepper Adams in Rochester, 1935-1978," that I'm giving on Wednesday, October 21 at Rochester Institute of Technology. I haven't heard any of these tapes since conducting the interviews 28 years ago.

The first one I heard was two nights ago. It was an interview with Raymond Murphy. Ray was four years older than Pepper. During the summer of 1944, between high school and college, Murphy worked at Columbia Music Store, a jazz-specialty record shop in downtown Rochester. Sometime that summer Pepper stopped into the store. Pepper, thirteen years old and between 8th and 9th Grade, was introduced to Ray because Pepper said he was really interested in jazz and Ray was close in age and was managing their mail-order jazz record business. Ray and Pepper, it turned out, were equally enthralled with and totally dedicated to jazz. A fast friendship ensued. Ray, in a big-brother-kind-of-way, took Pepper under his wing. Murphy had already collected a number of records--far more than Pepper--particularly of the early New Orleans clarinetists, the Condon Gang and Coleman Hawkins. In fact, it was Murphy who first got Commodore and Blue Note records into the Rochester market. Almost every week for the next three years (until mid-1947 when Pepper left for Detroit), they would get together to play along (either trombone/clarinet or trombone/tenor sax) with Murphy's records. 

They were best friends and attended performances together, such as the time when pianist Joe Sullivan appeared at a piano bar on Rochester's East Avenue. They would discuss things they read in the jazz press and other things they found amusing in The New Yorker. Murphy said that Pepper at thirteen didn't know very much about jazz but was totally focused on learning about it. He had just gotten his tenor and was beginning to get around on the instrument. When Murphy, as an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, hosted an evening commercial jazz radio show on WRNY, Pepper, then in high school, was an eager listener and made suggestions to his friend's playlists.

As you can imagine, I went to bed pretty excited about everything I relearned about Pepper's experience with Murphy. The following morning I wanted to know more about Murphy. I did a Google search for "Ray Murphy/trombone/Eastman" but kept getting data on Rayburn Wright, the very distinguished arranger, pedagogue and trombonist. What about Murphy? Why nothing on him? For much of the morning I wondered if maybe I interviewed Wright and not Murphy. Did I somehow write down the wrong name on my tape box? I read about Wright's amazing career, in which even Duke Ellington was a student! I had to find out what was going on! I emailed arranger Bill Kirchner, who studied with Wright. About an hour later I played him an excerpt from my interview. He didn't think it was Wright but suggested I contact trombonist and bandleader John Fedchock, who studied with him as a graduate student.

While waiting to hear from Fedchock, I tried again to find data on Murphy. Finally, I found a few citations that confirmed many of the things Murphy mentioned in my interview, such as his 1926 birth, that he entered the University of Rochester in 1948, and that he was a professor at the University of Rochester, of which the Eastman School of Music is one division. It turns out that Murphy returned to Rochester in 1968 to run the University of Rochester's sociology department. He also taught one course at Eastman. It seemed that it was Murphy after all, and just a weird confluence of facts. Woefully, I also learned that Murphy died earlier this year. Then I heard from Fedchock, who asked me to call today. A few hours ago I played some of my interview for him and he confirmed it definitely wasn't Wright on my tape.

Oh, well. No matter, really. Just the emotional rollercoaster process that biographers sometimes work their way through. I'm certainly happy to get to the bottom of that. Murphy's three-year friendship with Pepper Adams paved the way for Adams' immersion into the big league jazz world of Detroit. One could also say that the Murphy-Adams practicing team presaged the Adams/Curtis Fuller duo of 1955, in which Adams tutored Fuller in not a dissimilar way as what Murphy did for Adams. I'll be discussing the Murphy-Adams friendship in greater detail in the biography. For those who want to know more about Rayburn Wright, read this:

Now, off to another interview.

                         (Rayburn Wright)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pepper and Fish

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

My interview last Sunday with Delaware tenor saxophonist Dave Schiff was absolutely groundbreaking! Much of it will be included in my forthcoming Pepper Adams biography because Schiff goes into great detail about Pepper's approach to playing. Apart from Curtis Fuller and others that Pepper may have mentored in Detroit, it turns out that Schiff was very likely Pepper's only student after Pepper moved to New York at age 29. How Schiff knows so much about Pepper is that his memory is razor-sharp about many of the important things that Pepper taught him when he was an aspiring teenage saxophonist.

Schiff was fifteen when Pepper, Thad Jones, Roland Hanna, Tom McIntosh and a few other top New York-based jazz musicians came to Wilmington, Delaware, beginning in 1968, to do five-day workshops with young students from the area. Pepper was an instructor at the Wilmington Music School each June from 1968 to 1970, then again one last time in 1974. At the School, directed by Schiff's father, Hal Schiff, Pepper had a chance to work with small ensembles and individually with students. Some were very promising inner-city students who couldn't afford tuition. For them, Schiff's father arranged scholarship money, underwritten by the Dupont and Hercules corporations. Dave Schiff was one of the lucky students who studied individually with Pepper.

One year, in the late '60s, after Pepper finished teaching at the Wilmington Music School, he invited Dave Schiff (whom he regarded as a very promising instrumentalist) to New York to study with him for a day. By then, according to Schiff, he had become quite close with Pepper. Schiff and his dad (also a tenor player) took the train early on a Monday morning from Wilmington and were greeted by Pepper at either Penn or Grand Central Station. Pepper assured Hal that he would look after him and all would be fine. Hal went home on the train. Pepper and Dave went back to Pepper's one-bedroom apartment at 84 Jane Street, and they studied together for much of the day. 

That night Pepper brought Dave with him to the Village Vanguard, ostensibly to hear the band. Pepper told Schiff to bring his horn. For the last tune of the last set Pepper asked Schiff to sit in on Back Bone. Schiff was petrified, but Pepper assured him it would be OK. Schiff would only play two choruses after Pepper's solo, he'd first sit next to Pepper on the bandstand and play the chart with him, and he'd do fine. Schiff already knew Thad from his Wilmington experience, but that hardly calmed his nerves. Schiff told me, "I was so scared I thought I was going to vomit." Before they played the tune, Pepper introduced Schiff to Jerry Dodgion, who, as always, was very warm and welcoming. "Very nice meeting you," said Dodgion to Schiff. "I'm looking forward to hearing you play." As it turned out, Schiff got through the experience. Another challenge for the young player was overcome and Pepper's lesson was learned. That is, always play when you're invited.

Schiff, nicknamed "Fish" by Pepper, thought he might move to New York and become a professional musician. He certainly had an important ally in Pepper, he thought, and he would seek out other players his own age and develop that way. But the Vietnam War changed his plans. His father, worried that his son would be drafted and would have to fight overseas, got his son enlisted in the Navy Band in 1972. 

Not entirely unlike Pepper's Korean War experience, I still don't know if Schiff had a tour of duty or, instead, if he stayed mostly at the base at Annapolis, Maryland. Schiff did stay with the Navy's Commodores band for about 20 years and later was also a member of Bill Potts' Big Band that had a long residency two weeks a month at Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. Interestingly, Schiff was in Potts' band on 11 October 1979, the night Pepper came in, as a guest soloist, at Frankie Condon's Supper Club in Rockville Maryland. Schiff made corrections to that entry in Pepper Adams' Joy Road (pages 384-85). The changes will be posted in the next few months at "Discographical Updates" at

Obviously, I look forward to transcribing the Schiff interview and following up. Schiff was the first person to describe the inside of Pepper's apartment on Jane Street. Most importantly, of course, was Schiff's extremely important observations about Pepper's approach to playing. Although I've done more than 100 interviews, no one has presented these kinds of insights. 

Why "Fish?" Pepper was a voracious crossword puzzle enthusiast. When Pepper was dying at home, he passed the time doing New York Times crossword puzzles and reading the Flashman Papers, a series of twelve novels written by George MacDonald Fraser. Moreover, as Curtis Fuller put it about Pepper's playing, "Pepper was a speller." My theory is that Pepper heard "Schiff" and amused himself by reversing Schiff's surname as a kind of pseudo- reverse homonym.

So far, I only know of two other summer music camps for whom Pepper taught. One was the National Band Camps, based at Millikin University in Decatur IL and the University of Connecticut in Stoors CT. As such, he was in the forefront of jazz education in the U.S. He enjoyed working with young players, and I understand the compensation for clinicians was quite good. Additionally, Adams enjoyed doing college workshops, where the pay was even better. Two such programs he did late in life were at Eastman in March, 1978 and the University of North Texas in November, 1982. At one National Band Camps residency, one of his young students was Boston-based guitarist Jon Wheatley. In the Eastman jazz program was pianist Dave Loeb (see Joy Road, page 324 and "Discographical Updates.") At UNT was tenor saxophonist Chip McNeill.

About Pepper's disinterest in having private students, I think Pepper really prized his time alone, reading fiction, listening to Ellington and classical music, and nurturing his other hobbies, such as reading about fine art or watching sports on televsion, particularly football and hockey. For the most part, Pepper was busy enough to support himself by playing, and his mother's inheritance allowed him a measure of comfort. He bought his house in Canarsie with cash from her estate, acquired some furniture (his dad's kitchen table, mom's spinet, etc), and he freed up the rent money that he was paying for his flat in Greenwich Village. 

The only other time I know of that Pepper had a private student was when he was already quite ill with cancer. Montreal-based baritone saxophonist Charles Papasoff got a grant from the Province of Quebec to study with Pepper. Unlike with Schiff, the situation was quite different. Pepper needed the subsidy because his medical benefits were dwindling and, with his cancer treatments, he wasn't able to work as much as he needed to support himself. Although I interviewed Papasoff years ago, I don't recall the nature of their interaction. That's just one of many interviews I need to review. I do know they became friends. I can't imagine Papasoff not asking Pepper a million questions about technique and his life in jazz but my recollection is that he and Pepper mostly hung out, and Pepper might not have even pulled out his instrument. Papasoff did help Pepper on his last visit to Montreal--a very poignant experience for all. Check out pages 505-507 of Joy Road regarding Adams' very last performance, with Papasoff and Denny Christianson's commentary.

                                            (Dave Schiff)