Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lecture Notes

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I was off for much of the week, enjoying a few rounds of golf with a good friend. Because of that, the second part of my review of 50 Years at the Village Vanguard will be delayed at least a week. Thanks for your patience.

As of yesterday, I began preparing a new Pepper Adams lecture for at least four talks I'll be giving in Utah over a two-week period starting March 27. I've been invited to Utah State University for a few days as a guest of professor Jon Gudmundson. I'll be speaking about Pepper Adams in a classroom setting on April 4, and again at a pre-concert talk on April 5. The latter will be before a concert by the Utah State Jazz Band. They're performing some of Tony Faulkner's big band charts of Pepper Adams tunes, with Jason Marshall as the featured baritone saxophone soloist. The previous week I'll be lecturing to mostly music students at Westminster College (3/28), Salt Lake Community College (3/30) and Brigham Young University (3/31).

As I always do, I try to bring something new to these lectures. Apart from choosing different videos and music examples, I've tried to further refine why Pepper Adams remains overlooked. After all, why am I standing before these people, and why have so few in attendance not heard of him? Below is part of what I'll be presenting. (For one class I'll need to truncate my talk, hence the bracketed thing about Detroit.) I'm interested in your feedback. Am I on the right track? 


Thank you, ________. It's great to be here. Today I'm going to discuss Pepper Adams' contribution to American music [ . . . and I'll touch on why his postwar Detroit generation of musicians is unique in jazz history.] 

Before I begin, do you have any burning questions for me about Pepper Adams or about my work about him? Have any of you seen, my Instagram site, or my blog?

Before my lecture here was announced, how many of you had even heard of Pepper Adams? . . . 

There's no doubt that among jazz musicians during Adams' lifetime, and for many insiders up to this day, Pepper Adams is viewed as a jazz titan, an icon. Nevertheless, he still isn't widely known as a musician of significance, as I think he should be, nor even discussed in any depth in jazz histories that really should know better. Despite the reverence he commands among musicians, Adams still lingers as somewhat of a footnote to history. That disconnect, albeit gradually improving over time, is something I've dedicated my life to changing.

I've been working on Pepper Adams for 33 years, since I met him in the summer of 1984. I knew him during the last three years of his life, two during his terminal illness. I'm continually struck by how much he's overlooked as an innovator. Part of this, I think, is due to the sheer complexity of his style. There's a lot going on, a lot to grasp, when you hear a Pepper Adams solo! 

Another reason, as I see it, is the bias in the way jazz history is told and the way it's sold. For me, they are two sides of the same phenomenon. If you look through the histories of jazz, you'll likely notice that so much of it discusses bandleaders and their recordings. Those who led jazz bands have historically made the most well-known recordings because they are the ones most promoted by record companies, PR firms, radio and TV, and other affiliated industries. Such bandleader recordings in turn have gotten the most press and continual airplay. So, around and around it goes in a circular, self-aggrandizing cycle of promotion and acclaim.

Yet, I'd like to point out that there's a lot more to the history of jazz than music made only by bandleaders. The way they've been anointed as the core history of this amazing music is myopic and unfortunate. For one thing, there's the overlooked history of music made in major cities such as Detroit. Fortunately, this kind of localized scholarship is really beginning to flower. 

Then there's the issue of sidemen. Some of the greatest jazz musicians, such as Pepper Adams or Sonny Stitt, to name just two saxophonists, preferred to tour as soloists, playing with pickup rhythm sections throughout the world. They didn't want the responsibility of leading a band and running a business. Being a sideman doesn't make them any less important as players, nor, as I've said, shouldn't marginalize them in term of their historical influence. It's simply a business decision they've made, though it certainly has its implications, doesn't it? Even Charlie Parker, by the way, though extremely well known, also spent much of his career touring this way. 

So, part of Pepper Adams' lack of recognition is due to issues related to commerce, as well as the common narrative sold by the media and told in jazz books. In addition, he played the baritone saxophone, an instrument that before him was thought to be cumbersome and unwieldy; a low-pitched instrument that early in the Twentieth Century was somewhat of a novelty instrument. One of Adams' great contributions to music is the way he brought the level of playing on the baritone saxophone up to the level of all other instruments. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

50 Years at the Vanguard, Part 1

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Fifty days is a long time to keep a jazz gig. How about fifty years? The amazing big band that performs every Monday night at the Village Vanguard has been at it for half a century. It's the longest gig in jazz history. 

It all began on February 7, 1966. That's when Thad Jones brought a group of New York musicians to the Vanguard for their first public gig. They were rehearsing his music since the previous Thanksgiving weekend. 

Monday nights at the Vanguard were dark. In fact, back then, little jazz took place in New York on Monday night. The owner of the Vanguard, Max Gordon, figured why not? The music is great, the musicians first class. Let's give it a shot and see what happens.

Word spread quickly about the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. Musicians were lining up in the rain to catch it. Thad's band quickly became a sensation. His arrangements were fresh and exciting. The band was soulful and swung hard. The section playing and soloists were superb. The rhythm section unsurpassed. And Thad's conducting style? The consummate leader: Caring, passionate, egalitarian, and original. Among the musicians--on the bandstand and in the audience--there was so much admiration for Jones' music, his playing, and his incredibly high level of energy and creativity. The band was inspired by Thad's spontaneous rearranging of his charts. The audience was on the edge of their seat watching the theatrics unfold. Thad was the ultimate improviser--as a soloist, conductor and arranger. There was so much love in that room on Monday nights.

Thad's amazing legacy, and the devotion to what Thad and Mel wrought, shows no sign of ceasing. It's sustained weekly by longtime Jones/Lewis trombonist John Mosca and longtime lead alto player Dick Oatts. Considering this amazing history, and the extraordinary roster of musicians that have been part of it, is there anything more worthy to commemorate in a book? That's what Dave Lisik and Eric Allen have done with 50 Years at the Village Vanguard: Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.

The project almost didn't happen. Unable to connect with trombonist John Mosca (after several attempts to discuss their book idea with him), the authors agreed to try him one last time while both were in New York or they would shelve the project. Mosca, a busy freelancer, was able to meet with the authors on their very last day in New York. Lisik and Allen needed Mosca's approval and participation to have access to the band's music, archives, copyrights, and the many musicians they would need to interview. Beginning with that successful meeting with Mosca, the authors embarked on an extremely busy year to organize this beautiful picture book and band history.

I first learned about the project from baritone saxophonist Frank Basile. He gave my contact info to Eric Allen because of the large amount of Pepper Adams materials I have in my Archive that he felt could enhance the book. After a few emails, Allen and I had a long phone conversation. I found him to be an exceptionally nice person, someone I'd be happy to help. Over the course of many months last year, I did whatever I could to assist the project. I bought an Epson scanner and spent time being patiently tutored by Allen on how to use it. (A great instrumental music teacher, I figured.) I went through all my Adams materials to find relevant documents, such as band itineraries and photographs. We exchanged many emails, discussing the veracity of certain photos and their origins, and many other things regarding Thad/Mel and Pepper Adams. Quite simply, the authors' labor of love was mine too. After all, Pepper Adams spent twelve years in that band, almost a third of his life as a professional musician. 

About the devotion and love that has motivated everyone involved, John Mosca and Dick Oatts summarized it in their forewords to 50 Years. "The secret is out," wrote Mosca. We're not in it for the money." "Every Monday night," wrote Oatts, "each member of the band sets aside everything else and comes to the Village Vanguard to serve the music we love and respect. In spite of the lack of financial reward and the occasional artistic disagreement, it is an unconditional love. Individual agendas are left out of the mix in order to maintain the tradition and preserve the integrity of what Thad Jones and Mel Lewis started in 1966."

In next week's post, I will review the contents of this important book.

To witness Thad Jones' original and passionate conducting style, see 

For a great piece about Thad Jones career, see 

This from Eric Allen: "Since we are self-publishing the book, would you please mention our website as the only place it can be purchased?":

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)