Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tony Inzalaco Interview

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

In the 1960s, New Jersey born and bred Tony Inzalaco was an in-demand drummer on the New York City jazz scene. In 1968, he left for Europe, where he stayed for ten years. While overseas, he played with Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Ben Webster, Art Farmer and many other great American exiles. "It was a family over there," he told me. Later in his career, Buddy Rich chose Inzalaco to play drums in his place, when Rich decided for a time to front his band as a singer. My fascinating two-hour conversation with Tony Inzalaco last week covered a lot of ground, though the core focus was about Pepper Adams. What follows are some of Tony's profound observations about Pepper and the music scene. For those who want to know more about Inzalaco, see and

Pepper Adams:
"A lot of people don't know a lot of the really great musicians because they were not band leaders. They were always sidemen. Pepper was one of those people; a master musician, with a history of recording with so many different people and being able to make music at a very high level throughout his career."

"Pepper was a gentleman, and he was very intelligent. He had a lot of integrity. If you or anyone tried to push him past a certain point, he was also internally very strong, He didn't take anything from anybody. If somebody tried to push him off his thought or whatever, he would stop them and straighten them out immediately. I was present in one of those situations but I don't recall who the person was. My recollection was that he was a jerk, and was way over the line with whatever comments he was making, and Pepper straightened him out right away. And that was the first time I had seen that part of his personality."

"I think if he played a different instrument, people would have had a better understanding of him. It just seems like the baritone does not excite people. I don't know why. But if you know anything about music, and you understand what Pepper plays and how he plays it, it's brilliant! It doesn't matter what instrument he's playing. It's the content of the creation that's important. . . When you look at the other baritone players, like Harry Carney--who was a great baritone player but his thing was mostly sound and knowing how to make Duke's music live. Pepper is a bebop guy. Rhythmically, he's a bebop guy. For me, that music is in a different strata."

About Pepper not getting his due: 
"He always seemed to be above that. I never sensed that he was bitter in any way. I always found him to be a quality human being, dealing with whatever came his way without classifying himself as a victim. There's so many people that make excuses for things that you can't control. . . It just struck me that a man of his enormous talent never seemed to be negative, how everything came to him and how real fame seemed to elude him. There's other instances on other instruments where guys were really great and were just in the wrong period of time because of scenes--got lost in the shuffle. [Pepper] didn't get lost. Again, he was the bebop representative. . . That's part of the sadness about this because a lot of the people that are very famous are questionable in terms of their spirit. In other words, if you were going to have a party, you probably wouldn't invite them."

Duke Pearson:
"Duke and Donald Byrd had a big band that was working at the Half Note on Monday nights. They were the counter band to Thad and Mel. Bobby Cranshaw, for whatever reason, took a liking to me. We played together on certain things. We hit it off well. At the time, he was working with Ella, along with Mickey Roker, and so when they went out of town, they would have to get subs. Cranshaw recommended me. That's how I got to do some of those Monday nights with that band. I don't know if it was [conceived by] one of the [Cantarino] brothers at the club there, to give the other club some competition. They didn't have as many seats. I think it was a good idea, just to have another big band with a different kind of approach. Duke Pearson was one of my favorite people. He was a romantic composer. He was like Puccini to me. The 'Jazz Puccini.' He was a joyful human being. He's another one of the gems that people never really got to know that well because he was behind the scenes a lot as an A&R man. The first time I played with them, there were two great tenor players. I don't know if it was Joe Henderson but it was definitely George Coleman."

Joe Henderson and Chuck Israels rehearsal bands in the 1960s:
"Joe Henderson had a band that used to rehearse. Also, the bass player, Chuck Israels, had a rehearsal band, and I did both of those. It was open to people who were in the inner circle. Whoever was available they would call, and if they couldn't do it, call the next guy. It is a rehearsal band and there's no money involved. With Joe's band, there was a guy by the name of Tom, an Italian guy. He had a studio in the Village. That was one of the places I remember Joe's band rehearsing. I think he gave guys a really good price to use the studio."

New York in the 1960s:
"In those years, if you were on the scene, you were allowed to go to the clubs free of charge. Those who played the clubs had free access to those playing the other clubs. It was a family."

Regarding the lack of musicians hanging out in New York the 1980s and beyond
"A lot of that has to do with changing of laws. We used to work from 10 o'clock until 4 o'clock. All the clubs were that way, and then, when they started to change the liquor laws . . . I remember one time I ran into Freddie Hubbard. He said, 'You know, it's all different now. We do two shows. That's it. If the people want to stay for the second show, they gotta pay again.' In Birdland, you could go and stay all night, if you wanted. Nobody harassed you in the gallery. The whole atmosphere changed, and all of sudden a lot of people were playing festivals, these big venues, where they could draw huge crowds and get a lot of money. The whole system of finance completely changed. When I say the law changed, before, people would be drunk, disorderly, and they would go on their way. But, when they started to prosecute bartenders if they kept serving people that were inebriated, that's what I mean. You didn't get the hanger-on people. The last set at Birdland, there was still a lot of people. Not the people with the furs and all of that crap, who would come in early and sit at the tables and get some food and stuff. It's a different kind of people, a different kind of atmosphere. . . A lot of the clubs, because of different behaviors that were criminal--people getting shot, people getting stabbed--it didn't help. Even Oscar Goodstein at Birdland. Somebody stabbed him. Just bad stuff! . . . Then the English people came over here with that other garbage. The rock 'n roll business took over. . . You gotta understand: Pepper was a bebop guy. . . It's probably the most intelligent form of music that was ever available, so it put a lot of people off. In the meantime, the English people came over and started [imitating] the rhythm and blues people."

Elvin Jones and Mel Lewis:
"These are two different dynamics. Elvin is really one of the great, great drummers. He is not just a great drummer but he was an innovator. He was like what Kenny Clarke was before--and this line of drummers that produced the bebop thing. Elvin could do that, but he synthesized all of that stuff and also got to this other plateau of what he does, which involved a lot of triplets and over-the-bar kind of long phrases. Mel is more of a predictable kind of player. A lot of people like his time feel. Somehow, he simplifies what he does. But in terms of playing the instrument, Elvin is a drummer. Mel plays the drums and is a good musician. There is a difference between a guy who's a great drummer and a great musician. Elvin has great intuition. I think that's what sets him apart."

Jazz in exile due to the black backlash:
"We were like a family over there. Just a lot of Americans that saw what was happening in the States and were very lucky that things opened up for them in Europe. That's why I left. Some time in 67, there was some kind of a revolution in terms of black people, black musicians. I was one of the people that worked with Billy Taylor. I guess every drummer in New York worked with Billy Taylor at a certain point in time. When I was with him, Henry Grimes was the bass player, who was magnificent! One day, Billy called me and said, 'Tony, don't be offended but I was instructed that I can't hire any white people any longer, and so I just want you to know that this is not my thing but it's a movement.' The only guy who didn't adhere to the movement in any way, shape or form was Bob Cranshaw, because he could do anything, he was totally non-prejudiced, just a great spirit."

"Anybody who really loved this art has to have known the history of the art. And so, you study everyone that preceded your arrival. If you want to become something, you have to understand the styles--the sound that they got, how they did what they did. And, of course, whatever in their playing is attractive to you, you assimilate that and use it with your own viewpoint. That's the only way that people can be part of the history. Nobody comes along and plays anything that's really new. It's a synthesis of all the [players] before . . . and what [you've] come to because of that. So I think that's part of the challenge of this art: to come up with what history has provided for you and come out of that with your own voice. It takes time, and it takes a lot of love, and it takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of hard work."

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Happened to The Big Band and Tentet CDs?

After last week's stimulating experience interviewing Detroit pianist Charles Boles, this week was pretty sleepy by comparison. I did exchange emails with Chip McNeill at the University of Illinois regarding the long awaited CD of big band performances of Pepper Adams tunes. Unfortunately, the Illinois state budget is still on shaky ground and McNeil's esteemed jazz program has suffered because of it. For the past few years, Illinois has slashed public college educational spending. Limited resources has kept McNeill from having the revenue to, among other things, release the date on Armored Records. He told me that if he has any money left over at the end of this semester, he'll finally be able to release the CD.

This is the recording that features arrangements by the superb British drummer and arranger Tony Faulkner. In order for Faulkner to get paid, travel from England to North America for a month tour of concerts and lectures with me, and pay for the mastering of the original concert done at the University of Illinois, Tony and I oversaw a stressful but ultimately successful 30-day Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2013. Somehow we exceeded our goal of $7000.  On behalf of Tony Faulkner, I want to thank all of you for your funding of the project. We remain eternally grateful.

One large contributor was baritone saxophonist Jon Gudmundson, who leads the jazz program at Utah State University. It was Jon's three-part goal to perform some of these charts, feature a guest soloist at the concert, and invite me to speak about Pepper. That dream is finally coming to fruition in a few weeks. His big band is performing these tough Faulkner charts on Wednesday night, April 5, in Logan, Utah, with baritone saxophonist Jason Marshall as soloist. I'll be doing some kind of pre-concert talk, plus lecturing at a jazz class the day before. While in Utah, I'm also doing lectures at Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, and possibly a few other schools.

The big band recording that Tony and I worked on was to be Volume 6 of my multi-volume CD series of Pepper's music. My record label, Motema, cut me loose after Volume 5 due to lackluster sales. At that point, not having a label, Chip and Glenn Wilson took back the project, deciding to search for a label or self-produce it through the university. After announcing its release on Armored, I thought the issue was concluded. Two winters ago the date was scheduled for release. Then I heard something about the owner's wife having a baby. Now it's Illinois' budget problem. We're nearly four years after the date has been recorded. Because of it being in limbo for far longer than any of us thought possible, the patience of some of my donors has no doubt been tried. Chip McNeill does not want me to release an edited version on CD Baby that we produced for Motema. In respect to his wishes, I continue to wait. Almost all of the donors will be receiving a surprise CD in the mail. I wish I knew when!

In the mail this week arrived a sampler CD, All Blues, from Denny Christianson, director of Humber College's great jazz program: Sometime after Tony Faulkner and I lectured at Humber in Toronto in the Fall of 2013, Christianson directed his Humber Studio Jazz Ensemble to record a collection of tunes, one of which was Pepper Adams' composition Doctor Deep. Finally, there's a well-produced studio version of one of Tony charts! Despite so many great concerts of his Adams charts done in 2012 and 2013, and even with the prospect of doing two recordings of Faulkner's arrangements, this Humber recording is the first and only commercial release of anything he wrote. The main reason why Tony worked so hard was to create a book of material that could be performed by big band and tentet, some of which would be recorded. The Illinois date has languished, obviously, and a live tentet recording led by drummer Tim Horner didn't turn out as expected and won't be released.

Speaking of drummers, I just received this email out of the blue from drummer Tony Inzalaco. It was a response to an email I sent to him last November:

Hi Gary;  I am replying to your email concerning working with Pepper Adams, etc. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond but I rarely check the email that you contacted me on. I would be happy to speak with you about Pepper but not by email. So if you are interested I would prefer speaking via telephone. You can either send me your number or request my number. Park was one of the great gentlemen of Jazz and his body of work is a testament of his artistic level of excellence.   

Tony Inzalaco

Here's my original email:

Hi Tony: In my interview with Pepper Adams, he mentioned playing with you in Atlantic City. He said it was a sextet led by Maynard Ferguson. I've been able to approximate the dates as cApr 20-24, 1965 and cApr 27-May 2, 1965. Might you remember who else was in that band, the venue, or anything else about it? Did you work with Pepper on any other occasions?

I'm scheduled to interview Tony this afternoon

                      (Tony Inzalaco)

In a few weeks,'s webmaster, Dan Olson, and I will be adding audio content of some of these big band performances of Faulkner's charts from 2013, including some great things on YouTube that haven't been seen because they're not properly indexed. By then, I should know if I'm going abroad in late September to give a presentation about Pepper Adams and Detroit in Darmstadt, Germany. My research over the last few months has been working toward having something of substance to present in Germany. If it comes to pass, I've been invited to Prague to stay with tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts. He'll no doubt do a gig of Pepper tunes when I'm there, hopefully with a big band, since he too arranged a few big band charts of Pepper's music. I'm hoping to lecture about Pepper at a few schools, including possibly the Prague Conservatory, if all works out.              
                            (Tony Faulkner)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Charles Boles Looks Back

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I had a wonderful, hourlong conversation yesterday with Detroit pianist Charles Boles. Boles attended Northern High School with Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd and Sonny Red, and studied privately, as so many of that era did, with Barry Harris. Boles witnessed and participated in Detroit's Golden Age of Jazz. His career spans seven decades and he's still performing in Detroit. Boles has worked with a who’s who of musicians, including Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King. Many thanks to Ken Kellett for setting up the FaceTime call and for participating as an amused and valuable observer. Rather than summarize my conversation, I'm going to let Charles speak for himself:

Miles at the Blue Bird in the summer of 1954:
Miles didn’t want to see Thad come in there because Thad would eat him up! . . . Miles would come to work and he would ask the owner even before he hit a note, ‘Can I get $50?’ Clarence Eddins would say, ‘Well, you gotta play at least one tune!’ So Miles would go up there and say, ‘Blues in F.’ He’d hit one note and then he’d walk off the bandstand and say, ‘Gimme $50.’ While the band was playing, [with] this guy ‘No Neck’ (who was a frightening looking guy), they would come out of the Blue Bird, go to the corner. (There was a light at the corner of Tireman and Beechwood.) They’d just be waiting for any car that would come along where the door was unlocked and they’d just get in. ‘No Neck’ would say, ‘Take us downtown.’ They’d go down to this hotel. I think it was called the Hotel Theresa then. It was right there on Adams and Hastings. They would go into this hotel to get high, and they’d come back outside of the hotel, after they got high, and they’d repeat the same scenario: Go to the corner, wait for a car to come along with an unlocked door, and they’d open the door and just get in and say, 'Take us to the Blue Bird.’

Pepper Adams:
I saw him all the time. I saw him at Barry’s house. He’d be always at the World Stage but he’d be at Barry’s house a lot. It was on Russell, upstairs over a grocery store.

Paradise Valley:
The Valley was only maybe two or three or four blocks long, from Hastings Street and Adams to, say, John R and Adams.

Northern High School:
Of course, we were there for band rehearsal, and to go to Choral at Fifth Hour. Claude [Black] was in the choral group with me. We all did the Messiah every year. We were very good. They had a very good music teacher there, Claire Weimer. . . . I couldn’t play in the concert band because I couldn’t read as well as Donald Byrd’s sister, Margie Byrd. She was a classical pianist. So I ended up playing bells in the concert band, and then I played piano in the dance band. They very rarely played any dances. We just played jazz tunes, and blues of course. In that band were people like Donald Byrd and Sonny Red, Paul [Chambers]. Paul and I used to eat lunch together every day. When he got to the Tenth Grade, he went to Cass. Him and Donald Byrd both.

The reason why Paul Chambers and Donald Byrd went to Northern High School the first year of high school was because Northern started in Ninth Grade. Donald Byrd was a neighbor of mine, maybe three or four blocks from me in Detroit, in the North End. Paul lived on the East Side somewhere. . . In that class at Northern was Claude Black. . . He was switching from trombone to piano, and there was Sonny Red there. He was in the band. There was Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers, Bobby Barnes. . . . The teacher was Orvis Lawrence, a barroom, stride piano player, if you will. A very good Teddy-Wilson-type piano player. A very good musician. He could really tell you what to do musically. He was knowledgeable. He kept a bottle in his desk drawer and he’d always go back there and get laced. The best thing about that era--and even after Donald Byrd and them left--was at the Seventh Hour there would always be people like Tommy Flanagan, Bess Bonnier, Roland Hanna. These guys showed up every day at the Seventh Hour to jam. What you didn’t know you could learn from hanging out with these guys. . . Orville Lawrence would allow you to continue to stay there and play until maybe 4 o’clock. School got out at 3 o’clock. 

We would leave and go to one of two houses after school. At Bobby Barnes’ house, Roland Hanna was the piano player, Gene Taylor was the bass player, Claude Black played trombone, and Bobby Barnes played the sax. Sometimes we’d go to Bobby Barnes’ house, who lived on Russell on the North End, or we’d go to Barry Harris’ house. Sonny Red would go back and forth. . . . We would come out of Northern High School--me and Paul Chambers and Sonny Red--and we’d catch the Woodward bus (the Woodward bus ran north and south) downtown to, say, Warren, and then you’d catch the crosstown bus to Russell. And then you’d catch the Russell bus to Barry’s house. I tell you what: When we went to Barry Harris’ house, more than likely you’re gonna get slaughtered! You know what they do? They would egg you on, and do everything they could do to get you to play, and then they’d play something like Cherokee or some hard-ass tune. Of course they’d play it at some ridiculous speed but you couldn’t keep up. So you’d go home and you’d practice that all week long, and you go back and they’d play it in A or play it in some other ridiculous key that would have nothing to do with the tune at all. They’d say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I’m in A. Whatever you practiced would be null and void. You could barely play in B-flat! When you get your butt kicked at Barry Harris’ house, then you’d slink on over to Bobby Barnes’ house the next two or three days. You wouldn’t dare show your face at Barry Harris’ house when you got killed already. He was a master teacher, though. I tell you what: If you continued to go there, he would help you. He would teach you how to improvise.

Legendary trumpeter Claire Rocquemore:
The great Claire Rocquemore? He could play anything. He’d wear Miles out. He’d wear anybody out. Donald didn’t want to get on the bandstand with him. He ended up being strung out. And he didn’t go anywhere. He would always be around, when he could keep it together, and kick everybody’s butt. He was at Barry’s house all the time.

Kenny Burrell:
He and I went to the same church together. I knew his mother and his grandmother. It was a church in Greektown called Second Baptist. The oldest black church. 200 years old.

Doug Watkins:
Doug was around at Northern too. Definitely at Barry’s house. It was almost a situation where it was either Doug or Paul. They were in fierce competition.

Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris:
Nobody could be like Willie Anderson. Everybody tried to be like Barry. . . . Here are two different guys that played the same style but in a different way. My explanation of it is that Barry is a direct link from Bud whereas Tommy Flanagan is a direct link from Teddy Wilson. It’s a difference in the touch, the way they play. . . In the beginning, Barry really wanted to be like Art Tatum but he didn’t have the strength. Tatum played really light but he was fleet. . . . The competition was so fierce here. You’d be around people like Barry, you’d be around people like Tommy Flanagan. These guys were like mythical!

Roland Hanna:
Roland was completely different. I went over to Bobby Barnes’ house and there was Roland. He and Gene Taylor had drank up a half a gallon of wine. Every day they would get together at 10, 11 o’clock playing classical music. I never knew where Roland went to school. Roland said to me, ‘I wanna be a classical pianist. I don’t want to play jazz.’ He could read fly shit. He was scary to be around.”

Hastings Street Scene:
I played on Hastings Street, which was a red light district. I played on that street for ten damn years. The cops came down on Hastings Street. The deal was that you either got, ‘Give me some head or give me some booty, or give me all your money.’ I saw them shoot a prostitute in the back and kill her. Her name was Charlene. I’ll never forget it. Killed her dead, right? And the people know the police did it but they got away with it because she refused to give them any money and she wasn’t going to give them booty that night. She was tired of screwing the police for free. That was in the fifties. I played on Hastings Street off and on from 48 to 58. The deal was you give up some booty or you give up some money, or else you’re going to jail.
                       (Charles Boles)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Forthcoming Books on Detroit Music

Soon after my entry was posted last Sunday, I got a reply from Thomas Glusac. HIs father, Rodney Glusac, had been interviewed by Mark Slobin for a book Slobin was writing about the music culture of Detroit. Slobin, a retired professor at Wesleyan University, is an acclaimed ethnomusicologist who grew up in Detroit, attended Cass, and was educated at the University of Michigan. Glusac included in his reply this link, totally new to me: It's a lecture Slobin gave in 2016 at the Library of Congress. Entitled "Improvising a Musical Metropolis: Detroit, 1940s-1960s," it gives a sense of his interests and the nature of his research. 

As Slobin points out in his lecture, "There is no book that is the life of any American city's music in any period of time." What intrigues me especially, of course, is Slobin's timeframe. Adams returned to Detroit in 1947 and left in early 1956. Slobin's work corresponds to Pepper's experience in his hometown.

Intrigued, I emailed Slobin after watching his lecture, wanting to know more about his research and when the book might be published. Fortunately, it's finished and has been submitted for publication. I suspect we'll see it sometime in 2017. 

Mark told me that he's giving a talk in Ann Arbor for the University on March 15: "They asked me to come up with something on Detroit in 1943, which happens to be my birth year, and the talk is on my birthday." If you're in the area, stop in to hear his talk on the Detroit Riot of 1943 and its many implications. Wish him a happy birthday for me, while you're at it.

                                       (Mark Slobin)

A second important book about Detroit's musical culture that we can expect in 2017 is Made in Detroit: Jazz from the Motor City. It's a collection of jazz profiles by Mark Stryker, former Detroit Free Press Arts Reporter and Critic. Stryker took a buy-out from the newspaper in December, 2016 after twenty-one years on the job. Stryker had been making progress on his book but the day job (as I well know) got in the way. Now, Stryker can finish it up. (He's currently at work on the Milt Jackson chapter.) Judging from his superb piece on Thad Jones, the book should be an excellent contribution to jazz history:

                                                          (Thad Jones)

Stryker's book, as I understand it, will be comprised of pieces about a handful of important Detroit jazz musicians. Some (a la Gary Giddins, Whitney Balliett and others) will be reworked pieces that he wrote earlier. That's a good thing because few of us have had the good fortune to read them. Will he be writing about Pepper Adams? No, he told me. That's my gig. Gee, isn't there anyone else out there who wants to write about Pepper?

                                          (Mark Stryker)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Biography Update

Here's my first post of 2017. I caught the flu in late December while on vacation, then got blogged down in catch-up activities for much of the new year.

Apart from my day job, I'm happy to report that things have been moving ahead on my Pepper Adams research. My focus throughout 2017 is researching and writing the section of Adams' biography regarding his time in Detroit. Pepper considered himself a Detroiter through and through, so this is a very important part of the book. In order to make sense of it, I've had to read several books and articles, and comb my notes for things germane to that experience. I've also been listening again to all the personal interviews I conducted with Detroiters.

A few weeks ago I conducted an hour-long interview with Bennie Maupin. That was quite interesting. Maupin came of age in the fifties and was influenced by Adams, Yusef Lateef and Joe Henderson, among other Detroit musicians. Generally speaking, I've stopped doing interviews about Pepper, except those related to the Detroit experience. A forthcoming interview with Detroit pianist Charles Boles will likely be my last one this year.

It's not just the world Adams inhabited that intrigues me. It's also the music culture of Detroit. How did it come to be? How is it that so many great jazz musicians (and musicians of all styles) come from that city? No one has really pinned it down. Additionally, what was it about Pepper's amazing generation of musicians that brought it to fruition? How unique in jazz history is it? I'm pleased to say that a picture is beginning to emerge.

In the great biographies, I commonly see some kind of sweeping historical context conveyed about why and how its subject fits into its milieu. There's an explanation of the city he grew up in, for example, and how that informed his experience. It's this kind of narrative that I'm after for Pepper's biography, and he certainly deserves no less. That's why I've been reading all these books. Here's the ones most important so far:

Austin, Dan. Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins. Charleston SC: History Press, 2010.

Bjorn, Lars; Jim Gallert. Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit: 1920-1960. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2001.

Goldstein, Laurence, editor. "Detroit: An American City." Michigan Quarterly Review, Spring, 1986

Lemann, Nicholas. The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America. New York: Vintage, 1991.

Lewis, David L.; Laurence Goldstein, editors. The Automobile and American Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1991.

Martelle, Scott. Detroit: A Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review, 2012.

Sugrue, Thomas J. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit. Princeton: Princeton University, 1966.

I'm currently reading my last book about Detroit: The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor by Nelson Lichtenstein. I was very impressed by, and highly recommend, the documentary film Brothers on the Line (2012), directed by Sasha Reuther.

During the last month or so I also took two left turns to read Michael Segell's wonderful The Devil's Horn: The Story of the Saxophone, From Noisy Novelty to King of Cool and Vladimir Simosko's Serge Chaloff: A Musical Biography and Discography.

For context, I also watched again two TV shows about Pepper's friend, the great American poet Phil Levine. He's interviewed by Bill Moyers here:; and by Jeffrey Brown here:

I'll be summarizing my observations about Pepper Adams' great generation of postwar musicians in a few lectures I'll be doing in Utah in March and early April. Maybe I'll see you there? I'll be at Utah State in Logan for a few days as part of a residency, and also at Westminster College and Salt Lake Community College. A few other schools are possibilities too. At Utah State, the university big band is performing big band charts of Pepper's music, arranged by Tony Faulkner, featuring guest soloist Jason Marshall.

For those of you who haven't seen my recent Facebook posts, these two amazing Lionel Hampton videos were just posted on YouTube:

Both are from 1964, Pepper's first trip to Europe. They include two magnificent solos and are his earliest known videos (at age 34).
                                                            (Bennie Maupin)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Heaven Was Detroit, Part 3

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I hope everyone is getting in the holiday mood. This will be my last post in 2016. I'm heading out of town for a few weeks. To all my readers out there, a very merry Christmas to you (or whatever it is you celebrate), and a healthy and very happy New Year!

The fourth jazz piece included in Heaven Was Detroit is about pianist and arranger Teddy Harris. Harris, for me, was the glue of the great Butterfield Blues Band ensemble (with a horn section) that I saw do several exciting concerts in New York City when I was a teenager. It was Harris' charts, his thing. What a great fusion of jazz and blues! I knew nothing about Harris until I read the piece by Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert. It turns out that Harris, apart from his jazz roots, was the Music Director of the Supremes for more than a decade. The authors point out that Harris functioned as an elder to younger musicians, continuing the longstanding Detroit practice of mentorship:

"Nurturing musicians essentially forfeited their chances for national exposure and recognition. A city's reputation is made by those musicians who leave; it is sustained by those who remain. Musicians who remain are special, and they form the backbone of our jazz community. Louis Cabrera, Barry Harris and Marcus Belgrave were among their number."

Born in 1934, Teddy Harris went to Northern High School, another Detroit secondary school with a great music program. The program was run by Orvis Lawrence, who played with the Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller big bands. Also at Northern at that time was Tommy Flanagan, Sonny Red and Donald Byrd (before he transferred to Cass Tech).

In c. 1950, before Frank Foster joined the U.S. Army, said Harris, Foster would meet with the budding Northern High musicians:

"Frank Foster used to help me. . . . He was becoming a pretty astute arranger. He would come over to [Northern]. We got out of school at 2:30. He would get Donald Byrd, Sonny Red, and myself and Claude Black and take us to his house where he would teach us how to read his arrangements."

                             (Teddy Harris, 1970)

Bill Harris' short piece on drummer Roy Brooks mentions that Brooks attended Northwestern High School. Brooks and alto saxophonist Charles McPherson were regular listeners at the back door of the Blue Bird Inn. Too young to be admitted, they listened to Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Pepper Adams and all the other greats that were playing there nightly. In late 1959, Brooks replaced Louis Hayes in Horace Silver's group.

Though outside the purview of this blog, those interested in post-1950 Detroit developments, should read Farooq Bey article and Larry Gabriel's two pieces.

As a sprawling anthology covering the entire breadth of jazz and vernacular music in Twentieth Century Detroit, much of the work will not excite Pepper Adams listeners who are narrowly focused in jazz up to 1956. Nevertheless, three other tidbits that caught my attention: R.J. Spangler's piece discusses the 1940s, around the time when Pepper Adams came back to town: 

"Clubs like the Flame Showbar, the Club 666, and the Club Congo all had house bands, chorus lines, shake dancers, ballad singers, blues singers, and more. These were big productions. The auto plants were humming round the clock. People had a few bucks to spend and clubs were full. There was work for musicians and entertainers."

John Sinclair's piece on bluesman Johnnie Bassett includes a surprising blurb about the great after hours jam sessions that took place at the West End Hotel:

"My sister was a waitress there in Delray--Louise, she was a waitress out there at the West End Hotel for a long time. Those guys used to have that session out there every weekend. It started at two o'clock in the morning and it'd go from two to seven a.m. Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers, Yusef Lateef, all the guys used to come through that was playin' down at the Flame [Show Bar], and the Rouge Lounge, used to come out to the sessions."

Lastly, in John Sinclair's piece on blues in Detroit, he describes the Hastings Street scene:

"Except for a couple of raggedy blocks straggling south from East Grand Boulevard, Detroit's Hastings Street is gone now. The Motor City's major African American entertainment thoroughfare was gouged out in the late 1950s to make way for the Walter P. Chrysler Freeway. . . . But for twenty years before that, Hastings Street swung all the way from Paradise Valley downtown for fifty or sixty blocks north. . . . In its prime years, Hastings Street throbbed with music, from the elemental blues of John Lee Hooker [and others,] to the swinging jazz of the Teddy Wilson Trio [with drummer J.C. Heard), Maurice King and His Wolverines (with vocalist LaVerne "Bea" Baker), Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams, T.J. Fowler, Todd Rhodes and His Toddlers, and the Mathew Rucker Orchestra. Jazz stars like Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, and Cootie Williams played the Forest Club or the Flame Show Bar as well as the Paradise Theatre on Woodward Avenue, sharing the stage with rhythm and blues recording stars like Dinah Washington, Wynonie Harris, Amos Milburn, B.B. King, and T-Bone Walker."

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet (1958-61)

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Here's the piece I contributed to the Heaven Was Detroit anthology. It can also be found at The book version added one paragraph about Donald Byrd's early history, probably for the sake of balance. Otherwise, it's the same piece. I offer it here to give more exposure to this great and undervalued quintet.

Although they seldom performed together in Detroit as teenagers, trumpeter Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams established an enduring musical partnership in their late twenties that coalesced a few years after both had moved to New York City. Their first New York gig was probably at the Cafe Bohemia in early February, 1958. Later that month, they were paired as the front line for a Thelonious Monk studio recording, just as they began a residency at the Five Spot that lasted until June. Already in demand as a dynamic front-line duo, their four-month run (with Detroiters Doug Watkins and Elvin Jones) gave them the opportunity to launch the Byrd-Adams Quintet as a working group. Riverside Records recorded them live in April. Six months later the band would record Off to the Races, its first of a series of recordings for Blue Note Records that cemented the band’s place in jazz history.

In the Summer of 1958, however, directly after the lengthy Five Spot engagement, Donald Byrd toured Europe with Watkins and Belgian tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. Adams, for his part, accepted a six-week engagement with Benny Goodman. Again, in early 1959 the Byrd-Adams Quintet would be shelved in favor of Byrd and Adams’ four-month commitment to the Thelonious Monk Big Band (culminating with the influential Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall date for Riverside). This on-again/off-again schedule would characterize the early history of the Quintet, from mid-1958 well into 1960. Because steady work wasn’t available for the group’s first two-and-a-half years as a unit, Byrd and Adams continued to take gigs as sidemen while also maintaining active careers as solo artists.

From 1958-1961, Byrd and Adams were busy indeed, working and recording in many settings. Besides their membership in Monk’s orchestra in early 1959, Adams did two tours with Benny Goodman and another with Chet Baker before May, 1959, when the Byrd-Adams Quintet recorded Byrd in Hand, their second date for Blue Note. By then the Quintet had already worked two weeks at New York’s Village Vanguard. In October, 1959 the band was touring again, this time playing gigs in Toronto and Pittsburgh.

In the Spring of 1960 the Byrd-Adams Quintet (including Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones) recorded three tunes for a stereophonic sampler project for Warwick Records. Before that, Byrd without Adams had worked his way from New York to San Francisco and back while Adams formed a short-lived quintet with tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose. But by July, 1960 the Quintet’s superb rhythm section of Duke Pearson, Laymon Jackson and Lex Humphries had coalesced. And with Adams back in the group, the Quintet began its incarnation as a steadily working ensemble. A three month tour took the band to Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, then back to Chicago and Detroit before returning to New York in late October.

During the group’s two-month stint in Chicago (that would extend into January, 1961), pianist Herbie Hancock was hired to replace Duke Pearson. This was Hancock’s first gig outside of Chicago with a touring band. Hancock moved from Chicago to New York to join the group.

Back in New York, the Quintet recorded again for Warwick, then toured for most of the year before disbanding in October. In February and March, 1961 the group gigged throughout the Eastern United States and Canada, working at the New Showboat in Philadelphia, then Montreal and Toronto and back to the Bird House in Chicago before working in Indianapolis and Rochester, New York. Returning to New York in April, the group recorded two more dates for Blue Note (Chant and The Cat Walk) within a two week period

Looking back at the group’s history, there seems to be a direct relationship between the amount of recordings the Byrd-Adams duo made and the frequency of Quintet gigs. Stated another way, the more recordings Byrd-Adams made, the more they created demand for their Quintet to be heard live in performance. Their first recording, 10 to 4 at the Five Spot, released in mid-1958, was followed by the release of the Quintet’s first two Blue Note recordings in 1959, Off to the Races and Byrd in Hand. Those were followed in turn by a double-LP recorded in November, 1960 (Live at the Half Note) and five studio sessions (Motor City Scene, Out of This World, Chant, The Cat Walk and Royal Flush) all recorded before October, 1961. This upward arc of activity in the studios was equally true for their dense club-date calendar. Band itineraries, magazine articles and advertisements in the jazz and lay press all demonstrate that 1960 and 1961 were, indeed, the glory days for the working quintet, when the band was performing regularly and functioning at its peak. This is the main reason why I find the Quintet’s cluster of six recordings made in less than a year’s time to be their finest work. Working steadily for only a year also explains why the Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet remains to this day not nearly as well-known as some of other similarly constituted great small bands of its time, such as those led by Max Roach, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Horace Silver or Cannonball Adderley.

What other conclusions can we make about the Quintet’s three early recordings leading up to their great body of work done in late 1960 and 1961? First, it’s clear that Byrd and Adams favored Detroit musicians in their group whenever possible. The live 1958 Riverside date, for example, was an all-Detroit group except for pianist Bobby Timmons, though I suspect they tried to hire Tommy Flanagan.

For their second and third dates—the Quintet’s first two for Blue Note—commercial pressures dictated that Byrd, as leader, feature some of the musicians in Blue Note’s stable. It also necessitated expanding the front line to three horns. These all-star sessions would soon be phased out in favor of showcasing the working Quintet. That’s because the group started touring steadily in mid-1960, congealing as a unit, and attracting attention as a unique band with its own sound.

Two other things that characterize the Quintet’s recordings is their inclusion of original compositions and the use of the ballad feature. Both Byrd and pianist Duke Pearson used these recording dates as opportunities to write original tunes and arrangements for small group. The ballad feature—a convention of jazz performance, and something Byrd would’ve been asked to perform as a member of Art Blakey’s band a la trumpeter Clifford Brown—is something Byrd and Adams would always do in club dates and also on several of their recordings. They used ballads as solo features for either Byrd or Adams, typically undergirded by the rhythm section, and as a way to affect variety within each set of music. Additionally, having one of the horn players drop out on a slow-tempo number was sensible in another way. It would by necessity abbreviate the duration of the tune and not unduly disrupt the set’s momentum.

Taking the entire sweep of their work into consideration, it’s clear to me that Byrd’s exclusive recording contract with Blue Note catalyzed the Byrd-Adams Quintet. Their increasing popularity, due to the wide distribution and overall excellence of their first two Blue Note recordings, also led to them eventually being picked up by the Shaw Agency, who booked tours for the group throughout North America.

Fortuitously, too, a brief lapse in Byrd’s Blue Note contract allowed Byrd and Adams the opportunity to fit in two additional recording dates. One, Out of This World for Warwick, was for the working group. The other, Motor City Scene (under Adams’ leadership for Bethlehem), was for sextet, with the addition of Detroiter Kenny Burrell on guitar. 

                (Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd at the Half Note, 11 November 1960)

For all their recordings, steady work on the road, and critical acclaim, the Shaw Agency’s predilection for booking the Quintet on very long road trips still spelled disaster for the band. Exhausting car rides (Minneapolis to Dallas, Salt Lake City, Denver, then Detroit, for example) were already booked by Shaw in October, 1960. In July and August, 1961 the group was back at it, driving from New York to Cleveland, then St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit, leading up to Royal Flush, their last New York studio date in September. In October the band returned to St. Louis, then played Kansas City, where the club folded and the group wasn’t paid. Years later Adams cited transportation costs relative to what they were earning as the main reason for ending the four year collaboration. But the Kansas City experience must have functioned as a telling metaphor and as an embodiment of the group’s pent-up frustrations. It was the Quintet’s final gig.

Despite their all-too brief time together, three outstanding recordings were made in the late 1950s and six superb dates were made in a ten-month stretch beginning on November 11, 1960 with the Blue Note double-LP Live at the Half Note. The Half Note date is the only Quintet recording to have never gone out of print in the U.S., some measure of its enduring value. From it, Duke Pearson’s composition “Jeanine” is the Quintet’s only tune that has became a standard in the jazz repertoire. Live at the Half Note reveals the band at the height of its power and remains the best example of what the band sounded like at the time.

Just after the Half Note recording, the Quintet, in a burst of activity, recorded four more dates in New York. First was the Bethlehem session, led by Adams, that returned to the favored all-Detroit formula (with Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers and Louis Hayes). A January date for Warwick, Out of This World, featured the working group, now with young Herbie Hancock on his very first record session, but with drummer Jimmy Cobb in place of Lex Humphries. In April and early May, the Quintet’s two Blue Note studio dates used other drummers entirely: Philly Joe Jones on The Cat Walk, because they couldn’t locate Humphries, and Teddy Robinson on Chant because he was already touring with the band at the time. One final Quintet date, Royal Flush, was done in September, 1961. It’s just as excellent as the others. It features Byrd, Adams and Hancock, with bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins.

Summing up the totality of the band’s output, what is it about this group that made it unique? First and foremost, of course, the Quintet featured two great instrumental stylists backed by a terrific, interactive, hard-swinging rhythm section. Their repertoire was fresh and compelling, comprised of a blend of unusual standards, interesting originals, and cleverly adapted tunes, such as an uptempo version of “I’m an Old Cowhand” or Henry Mancini’s “Theme from Mr. Lucky.”

Sonically, trumpet with baritone sax is an exquisite pairing, even more aurally spread than the customary trumpet/tenor sax pairing of its time. A trumpet/baritone front line was still rather unusual in 1958, especially one playing this brand of intense post-Charlie Parker small group jazz. But, more than that, Byrd and Adams meshed so well because their styles were so complementary. Byrd, at root, was a very melodic, soulful, lyrical player who used nuance, space and blues inflections in his solos. Adams did too, though he was more of a rhapsodic player, who delighted in double-time playing and exhibiting other technical flourishes. Byrd, it could be said, was more of a “horizontal” soloist, Adams more “vertical.” What a perfect counterbalance! And when Byrd and Adams stated each tune’s theme, their phrasing—often using impressive dynamics or provocative counterpoint lines—was always so beautifully rendered.

All told, during the four year stretch that reached its apotheosis in 1960-61, the Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet recorded eleven dates—seven studio albums, one sampler, and three live LPs—assuring their place as one of the great jazz groups of its time. The band launched the career of Herbie Hancock and it gave Byrd, Duke Pearson and, to a lesser extent, Adams and Hancock, a forum to write original compositions. Some of the tunes in their book (“Curro’s,” “Bird House” and “Jorgie’s”) immortalized jazz clubs. The Quintet surely helped Adams’ career too. He was heard widely in clubs throughout North America and the Blue Note dates in particular were well distributed in the U.S. and abroad during his lifetime.


With the exception of Live at the Half Note, all of the Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams Quintet’s Blue Note recordings have been collected in a Mosaic Records box set. 10 to 4 at the Five Spot and Motor City Scene have been reissued on CD. Out of This World has been reissued on CD too, but beware of cannibalized recordings from bootlegs that cut and paste some of the tunes almost beyond recognition. Most of the Quintet sessions were under Byrd’s name because Blue Note’s contract was with him. The dates on other labels fall under Pepper Adams’ leadership or Adams-Byrd. 

No film or videotape footage of the Byrd-Adams Quintet has been uncovered as yet but a terrific clip from the 1958 Cannes Jazz Festival, featuring the Bobby Jaspar-Donald Byrd Quintet is listed below. Each member of that rhythm section (Walter Davis Jr., Doug Watkins and Arthur Taylor) recorded with the Byrd-Adams Quintet on Blue Note.  

Pepper Adams, Motor City Scene, Bethlehem BCP-6056.
____________, 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot, Original Jazz Classics CD: OJCCD-031-2.
Pepper Adams-Donald Byrd, Out of This World, Fresh Sound CD: FSR-335.
Donald Byrd, At the Half Note Cafe (Vol. 1), Blue Note CD: CDP-7-46539-2.
____________, At the Half Note Cafe (Vol. 2), Blue Note CD: CDP-7-46540-2.                                        
Donald Byrd-Pepper Adams, The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions, Mosaic CD: CDBN-7-46540-2. 
Bobby Jaspar-Donald Byrd, INA videotape (France),
Thelonious Monk, Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall, Original Jazz Classics CD: OJCCD-135-2.


Who wrote all those great tunes for the Byrd-Adams Quintet? I always knew Donald Byrd wrote a bunch and that Duke Pearson wrote a few. When I began assessing their repertoire I was surprised to see the degree to which Byrd’s writing dominated the amount of original material written for 1958-61 band. 33 original compositions were written to perform during that period. Of that, 70% of the oeuvre was written by Donald Byrd or (in the case of “Each Time I Think of You”) co-written by Byrd and Duke Pearson.

Nine of the tunes were written by various pianists in the band: Walter Davis Jr., Duke Pearson and Herbie Hancock. Pepper Adams wrote his two compositions for Motor City Scene, the 1960 Bethlehem date under his leadership. It seems doubtful that either of Adams’ tunes were ever played by the Quintet in club dates. Herbie Hancock’s first recorded composition, “Requiem,” can be heard on Royal Flush, the Quintet’s last studio date while still a touring band.

“Jeannine,”* written by Duke Pearson, was recorded by Cannonball Adderley about six months before the November, 1960 Live at the Half Note date. Although not written for the Byrd-Adams Quintet, it’s included below, albeit an outlier, because Byrd-Adams helped make the tune part of the standard jazz repertoire. That’s in part due to the fact that their seminal Blue Note recording never went out of print in the U.S.

What about the rest of the book? Judging from the data, 28 other tunes were either recorded or performed in clubs. A few of these tunes were standards but most were tunes that few performed. Even some of the standards were modified in creative ways, such as the ballad “That’s All” and the novelty number “I’m an Old Cowhand” being made into uptempo flag-wavers. See the Byrd-Adams repertoire list below.

Pepper Adams:

Donald Byrd:
Bird House
The Cat Walk
Devil Whip
Down Tempo
Great God
Here Am I
The Injuns
The Long Two/Four (= Off to the Races)
Pure D. Funk
Soulful Kiddy
Sudwest Funk
When Your Love Has Gone
You’re Next

Donald Byrd-Duke Pearson:
Each Time I Think of You

Walter Davis Jr.:
Bronze Dance
Clarion Calls

Herbie Hancock:

Duke Pearson:
Child's Play
Duke’s Mixture
Hello Bright Sunflower
My Girl Shirl
Say You’re Mine

Other Tunes Recorded and Performed by Byrd-Adams:
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Harold Arlen)
Bitty Ditty (Thad Jones)
Cute (Neal Hefti)
Day Dream (Billy Strayhorn)
Hastings Street Bounce (traditional)
I’m a Fool to Want You (Jack Wolf-Joel Herron-Frank Sinatra)
I’m an Old Cowhand (Johnny Mercer)
I Remember Clifford (Benny Golson)
It’s a Beautiful Evening (Raymond Rasch)
Like Someone in Love (Jimmy Van Heusen)
Little Girl Blue (Richard Rodgers)
Lover Come Back to Me (Richard Rodgers)
Mr. Lucky (Henry Mancini)
One More for the Road (Harold Arlen) 
Out of This World (Harold Arlen)
Paul’s Pal (Sonny Rollins)
A Portrait of Jennie (J. Russel Robinson)
Sophisticated Lady (Duke Ellington)
Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael)
Stuffy (Coleman Hawkins)
That’s All (Bob Haymes-Alan Brandt)
’Tis (Thad Jones)
Trio (Errol Garner)
When Sunny Gets Blue (Marvin Fisher-Jack Segal)
You’re My Thrill (Jay Gorney)
Witchcraft (Cy Coleman)