Monday, May 6, 2019

Romping through the Midwest

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.


I left for my tour of the Midwest on April 8 and returned on the 23rd. I needed a full week to catch my

breath upon my return. After two solid years of writing Pepper’s biography on top of (or in between)

work, the trip really took its toll. I drove more than 1,000 miles from St. Louis to Macomb and back, and

then from Minneapolis to Madison and back. Half the trip was a vacation in Minneapolis with my old

college buddies, and there was a lot of carousing.

Before I left, one of my loyal biography readers encouraged me, once I got some distance, to reread the

first half of my forthcoming Pepper biography. He said that my writing had improved over the last two

years and that I’d probably find some things to tweak that no longer would seem acceptable. He said,

“more work equals a better book.” He was right! A few days after my return, I started reading my

opening paragraph of Chapter 1 and immediately saw things to alter. Accordingly, for the next few weeks

or longer, I’ll be editing the first half of the biography for publication this summer as an e-book. More

details will follow, once I’m done and figure out the vendor, etc.

I still have five more interviews on cassette, a handful of radio interviews, and about fifty interviews on

microcasette to listen to before I can make my final additions to Chapter Five and possibly the rest of

the book. What I’ve found by listening to these interviews is the unexpected gems here and there that,

when stripped into the text, add meaning and context to the text I’ve already written. I discovered some

of these today in my interview with the trombonist Bill Watrous. In some cases, as with my interview the

the drummer Eddie Locke, I’ve had to write new paragraphs that I wasn’t anticipating because of the

importance of the testimony.

On my journey throughout the Midwest, I came to the conclusion that I’d prefer to put off doing the

hardcore listening of Pepper’s recorded work from 1956-1977 until next year. That work will be

discussed in two separate appendices, as I’ve already done with the some fifty pages of text I wrote

about Pepper’s recordings during the period 1977-1986. All of the tunes I discuss in the appendices will

include links to YouTube so that the reader can immediately listen to the music. Much of it has never

been heard before.

Putting off the listening allows me to complete the biography this year. Because I’m on a roll and only

one chapter away, it’s far more gratifying to have that (as one wag once described a hemorrhoid) behind


I’m especially grateful to the wonderful hospitality that I was shown on my trip by my gracious guests. My

first visit was to Western Illinois University, to visit with my co-author, John Vana, and then speak to his

graduate class, “The Big Three: Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Pepper Adams.” At the St. Louis

Airport the following day, my flight got delayed for nearly three hours due to the snow storm that was

moving through the Midwest. The Minneapolis Airport was closed during that time so they could clean

the runways and catch up on all the delayed flights. I was indeed lucky to land in Minneapolis at 7pm and

still have some fun there, rather than be placed in an airport hotel and fly out the next morning. I think the

flights after me were grounded.

The following Sunday night, I met the alto saxophonist Jeff Erickson for dinner, where I proceeded to

download for hours the essence of my two years of Pepper research. Thanks, Jeff, for listening, and for

allowing me to get that out of my system! The following day, I lectured to his jazz survey class at the

University of Wisconsin/La Crosse. Then I drove about a half hour up the pretty Mississippi River to

Winona, where I had dinner with the drummer, Rich MacDonald., Afterwards, I lectured about Pepper to

his class.

The following day, I drove some 200 miles to Madison, then spent the evening with the baritone

saxophonist Anders Svanoe. Svanoe did one of the first books for Scarecrow. See for all his work on the Detroiter. Obviously, we had a lot to discuss. After

eating some rather average food in LaCrosse and Winona, it was great to eat Nepalese, Laotian and

Mexican food during my stay. Svanoe took me around the main campus of the University of Wisconsin,

and the following day we looked over his Red memorabilia, then drove to Beloit College, where I lectured

to his jazz class.

That night Svanoe did an impassioned set of Pepper Adams tunes with a tasty rhythm section at

Madison’s Arts and Literature Lab. It’s an intimate setting for music, and we had a small but enthusiastic

turnout on a Wednesday night. My pre-concert talk to the audience and Anders’ performance was

captured on video. It will be posted soon at Many thanks to Thomas Ferrella, for his

support of the center and his wonderful hospitality. I hope more folks support it:   

The last lecture I gave was to Chris Merz’s class at the University of Northern Iowa. Chris studied with

Yusef Lateef and had been waiting for the right time for me to visit. Fortunately, we fit it in this time around.

I drove 200 miles to Cedar Falls, leaving Madison at 6:45am, to get to his class in time. Fatigued but

undaunted, I found his class to be among the most spirited of any class I’ve taught about Pepper. I was

excited to go there, because over the past twenty or so years Chris has built the finest program in the

state of Iowa. Sure enough, his students, especially the saxophonists in attendance, were very engaged

and it was a memorable experience -- for me up there with Eastman, Brigham Young, and only a few


That night, after we had dinner in Cedar Falls, I heard Merz at a jam session. He’s a very fine tenor

player. He was worried because I told him how displeased I was with Joshua Redman’s performance in

Hopkins MN a few days before. After the gig, I told him how much I loved his playing; how much joy he

exuded, how his lines swung so logically. Like Pepper once said, try to tell a story by getting conversation


Part of my vacation I stayed with my webmaster, Dan Olson. We discussed at

length, coordinating the future post with Svanoe, and charting the site’s future. We spent hours sorting

through the remaining Adams interviews that still needed to be posted. Right after I returned home,

“Danno” made some significant updates to the site. Due to a discovery I made after hearing an interview

with Pat Henry, the San Francisco deejay and the producer of Mel Lewis’ very first date as a leader, the

longstanding riddle about the publisher of “A Winter’s Tale” has mostly been solved:

Significantly, the Adams Interviews page has been updated and nearly completed:

We will be changing the contact email from to this blog so that we can drive

some more traffic and so that folks who email additions, etc, get replies in a timely manner.

Lastly, I’ve made some new additions to Pepper’s Instagram site, with some other photos forthcoming. Hopefully, I don’t repeat too many posts already on the site.

As always, I welcome your comments, and continue to be very grateful for all your support.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Chapter Five is Done

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

Happy April Fools Day. I’m not the recipient of any pranks today, fortunately,
but I can say in all honesty that Chapter Five of my Pepper Adams biography
is basically finished. At 58 pages, it covers the following topics:

  1. The History of the Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet
  2. Interlude: The 1960’s New York Scene
  3. Adams’ Work in Europe and Japan
  4. His Work as a Single, 1966-1977
  5. The Inception of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra
  6. Thad/Mel’s First Japanese Tour, Management of the Band
  7. The Trip to Russia
  8. Sax Section Reformulation, Pepper’s Lack of Solos, Thad’s Influence
  9. The Duke Pearson Big Band
  10. Pepper’s Move to Canarsie, His Interest in Art
  11. The Nirvana Party
  12. Life in Greenwich Village
  13. Adams as an Educator

All that remains before I turn to researching and writing the “Listener’s Guide, 1964-1977,” is hearing

another eleven interviews on cassette and another 46 on microcassette. That’s about 100 hours of

documentation, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything of importance or make errors. I should be done

with that by early summer, at which point I’ll start listening to every Pepper solo that he made once he

joined forces again with Thad Jones in 1964. By year’s end, I expect to have that finished. Then I can

turn to writing the final chapter of the book. I expect to finishing by Christmas, 2020.

No news yet on when the first half of the biography will be posted at and available

for sale. That will happen this summer, but it will take some research to figure out the best e-book

provider. If anyone has any suggestions, please post your responses below.

Here’s a quote that I grabbed today from an interview I heard. I did this one with Andy McCloud,

the Newark-born bassist who worked with Elvin Jones from 1978-1983. About Pepper, he said:

“He rose above all the muck and mire of what cats have to go through with color, and all the barriers.
He busted them all because he could play, and didn’t give a fuck about who you were or your attitudes.
All the negative stuff, he seemed to just push aside, and that’s why I think everybody liked him. Also,
that’s the sign of a strong man or woman (or human). The fact that he played so good. He played jazz!
There were only a few white boys who could play like that.”

I may use the following in Chapter Six. It involves how Detroiters self-policed themselves, especially in
the post-1956 years, after the big influx of Detroit jazz musicians went east to New York:

Oliver Shearer was seven years older than Pepper and acted with him in a very paternal way. “He
used to get high. He got me high, not forcibly, but got me high to let me know what it was.
Because he and Tommy [Flanagan] were getting high, and they were laughing at me ‘cause I
would be pulling off this big father act. They’d laugh at me. So he finally let me know what is
was. Then, I didn’t bother them that much more about smoking. But anything else, they knew
that I made another kind of rule.

I wasn’t the only one. Milt Jackson was the same way. He called us up one night. Pepper and I
had a gig and somehow we showed up late. Milt found out that we were late. This cat called us
up [on] like a Sunday morning he called me up and said, ‘What did I hear about you being
late?’ This was just playing a simple gig out on Long Island or somewhere. We got lost, car
trouble, or whatever it was. I had to satisfy Milt that that’s what it was, and it wasn’t somebody
bullshitting around.” This was a Detroit thing, that they represented Detroit jazz players and
needed to be professional because it reflected on all Detroit jazz players, agreed Shearer.

I’ll be leaving for St. Louis on April 8th. On the 9th, I’m lecturing about Pepper at John Vana’s graduate
school class at Western Illinois University. After a few days of fun and frolic in Minneapolis, I’ll be
lecturing on April 15 at both the University of Wisconsin (Lacrosse) and Winona State University. On
the 17th, I’ll be speaking at Beloit College, then that night is the Anders Svanoe Quartet concert, plus
my brief book reading at Artlitlab (see below). On the 18th, I’ll be speaking at Northern Iowa University.
Then, a few more days of fun in the Twin Cities before I return home after the Easter weekend and get
back to listening to those interviews. Hopefully, I’lI see some of you on the road.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Chapter Five of the Bio

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

My apologies for missing the February post. My work schedule has shifted since
December. I now work all day Friday through Sunday. I’m just too beat to write
over the weekend. Mondays will now be the new posting day.

It’s been a very productive few months of 2019. Chapter Five of the biography is
mostly done. Currently, I’m working through my last fifty or so interviews,
tweaking things here and there. The interviews will take me through the summer.
Then I can wrap up the chapter and move on to the Listener’s Guide, 1963-1977.
Hearing all of that music, and writing about Pepper’s best solos from the period,
will take the rest of the year to complete. Once done, I can move on to the final
chapter, covering the period 1956-1963. I’m expecting the finish line to be
Christmas, 2020.

Here’s an amusing excerpt from Chapter Five, spoken by the writer Albert

“At that time,” said Goldman, “I always had a 4th of July party.”

I always had a lot of jazz musicians to it, because those guys don’t go out of town on that day and they don’t
know what to do with themselves. I’d always have Zoot, and I’d always have Elvin, and I’d always have them
at my apartment. This year, I did it bigger. I took the whole restaurant. A lot of weird people came: Buddy
Rich. . . . I had this friend at the time who was a real hardcore drug criminal, a wonderful character. He said,
“Al, let me cater the drugs for the party.” I said, “O.K., man, go ahead.” So, they had all these drugs out on
bronze platters that they were passing around, the [chargers] that they put down before they serve you the
meal, then they remove it and put down the plates. They filled all those up with drugs. Some of the Indian
waiters are going around, saying, “Hashish! Hashish!” This is the atmosphere of the party in the afternoon.
The guy who ran the restaurant was a weird cat named Samsher Wadud, who claimed to be a nephew of the
Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He went over to the U.N. that day to demonstrate. He said, “I’m going to leave
you in charge of the restaurant, O.K?” I said, “Fine, don’t worry about it. These are all my people. We have no
problem. If anybody else comes, I’ll just take care of them.” In the course of the afternoon, I think only one
couple turned up who weren’t from the party. It was some big, blonde, buxom English lady and her spinster
daughter, or niece, or something, and they didn’t know what was going on. They just walked into this
restaurant for an Indian meal and people are passing these plates of drugs. I remember they reached into a pile
of marijuana and just put it in their mouths, like it was some seeds they were going to eat, like alfalfa. When
they got through, they asked for the bill. I said, “Oh, no, it’s all on the house. You’re here for the first time,
aren’t you?” And they said, “Oh, you’re so gracious! We’ll have to tell everyone in England when we get
home. . . .”
All my crazy friends were there. Drug dealers. Of course Bob [Gold] was there with his old lady at the
time, and Zoot and Elvin. I remember Zoot passed out completely. He never even got to play. Pepper played
this great musical afternoon we were going to make an album of it, actually. What it was was mostly a lot
of Duke Ellington stuff in a very icy, cool mode, like the frost on a bucket of champagne. It was so beautiful!
I would love to hear him in that mode. I told him, “Play all that cool Ellington stuff.” It’s an afternoon party.
We’re up in the penthouse there, all high as a kite. I said, “Let’s really do it. Do all those Billy Strayhorn
tunes.” It was a very cool, frosted-champagne afternoon.
That afternoon always stuck out in my mind as the kind of thing that Pepper should have been doing a lot
because he loved it. He was just functioning as a musician. He wasn’t an assertive guy. He didn’t want to be a
star. He just wanted to do his own thing, but he wanted to do it under the right auspices. He didn’t want to be
in some shithouse with a bunch of nitwits. And this was a very cool audience. I remember there was a very
hip Brazilian guy who came up with his girlfriend, who was just in from Rio. (I know a lot of people, and the
kind of audience he loved, who could really dig him.) Jack Kroll of Newsweek was there. I remember Jack just
sat there, with his drink, in front of Pepper for about an hour and dug him.
I thought to myself, “This is the kind of gig that guys should always be playing.” But nobody knew
he existed! That’s the tragedy of it. This great talent. I’m telling you, after years and years in the
jazz scene, I’ve heard all the famous, so-called “underground” stars. There’s a lot of these people.
One of them is Zoot’s brother, who played trombone for years in bands in Vegas. He’s a very good
trombone player. There are a number of people; they dropped out of the business because they had
to make a living, they had to put their kids through college, they lived in some weird town, or
something. But over the course of years, you get to hear them all, and, believe me, none of them
were in a league with Pepper. None of them. There wasn’t anybody. Pepper “walked away” from
all these people. He was the hippest, he was the coolest, he was the greatest technician, he was the
most sophisticated, the one who integrated more references.

Because my co-author, John Vana, is teaching a graduate level course this Spring at Western Illinois
about “the big three” (Bird, Trane, Pepper), it seemed like a great time to visit with his students, and
organize a few college lectures in the Midwest around the trip. Accordingly, I’ll be lecturing this coming
April at the University of Wisconsin- Lacrosse, Winona State University, Beloit College, and the
University of Northern Iowa. I’m also taking some vacation time in the Twin Cities.

The baritone saxophonist Anders Svanoe invited me to speak to his students at Beloit. Ultimately, we
decided to put on a concert of Pepper’s music in Madison, Wisconsin. His quartet will perform, and I’ll
read a few passages from Joy Road. It takes place on Wednesday, April 17 at 8pm. Here’s the

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Biography Update

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.

I hope that everyone had a great Christmas and New Year’s. Hopefully, no one caught the flu or a headcold. My apologies for the delay in posting this. I started a new gig that has me working during the weekends.

December was a great month for me. I finished Chapter Four of the Adams biography, leaving only two more to do, and I began Chapter Five. As of this writing, I’ve written twenty pages of Chapter Five, plus the opening page of Chapter Six. It’s so exciting that the blueprint for the bio’s conclusion is now in place. The end of this colossal project is now visible. I can’t begin to tell you how much this journey has meant to me, and how happy I am that I’m almost finished with the biography. That said, there’s still plenty of work to do. Besides the writing, there’s a ton of tapes and LPs to heard anew.

Chapter Four is 43 pages, by far my shortest. Then again, it has associated with it a 34-page Listener’s Guide as an appendix. Put together, it’s about the same length as the other chapters. There will be three Listener’s Guides in the book: 1977-1986 for Chapter Four, 1964-1977 for Chapter Five and 1956-1964 for Chapter Six. Each will discuss my favorite Pepper Adams performances during each of those timespans, and each cut that I discuss will be linked to samples so you can hear the music as you read along. Other music links, too, will be sprinkled throughout the main text. The aim is to make the book interactive.

Here’s outlines to Chapter Four and Chapter Five (in progress):

Chapter Four: Now in Our Lives

Last concert in Montreal
Cancer diagnosis and last recordings
Benefit for Pepper Adams, cancer treatments
Final gigs and last days
Marriage separation, alcoholism, car accident
Courtship and wedding
Pepper at a crossroads with Thad/Mel
Great recordings as a soloist, 1977-1984
Pepper as a beloved figure

Chapter Five: Civilization and Its Discontents

The Thad Jones-Pepper Adams Quintet
New York in the Mid-1960s
Pepper in Europe, 1969-1977
The Inception of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra

Adam Schroeder has completed six more Pepper Adams solo transcriptions. They have been posted at

I’ve been in touch recently with the baritone saxophonist Anders Svanoe. He’s done a great deal of pioneering work regarding the Detroit alto saxophonist Sonny Red. See Svanoe has invited me to speak about Pepper to his class at Beloit College this coming April. I’m looking forward to it in part because I came very close to attending Beloit many years ago. I’m curious what it looks and feels like there.

My lecture at Beloit is one of five scheduled for that tour. I’m also giving talks at Western Illinois University, Northern Iowa University, Winona State University, and the University of Wisconsin (Lacrosse). A few more lectures are likely to be added in the coming weeks. I’ll be sure to fill you in soon, in case any of you wish to attend. Additionally, there’s a chance that Svanoe might schedule a concert at an arts center in Madison, Wisconsin, in which he would play some Pepper’s tunes, then I’d give an abbreviated talk. More about that, should it come to pass.

I’m expecting to make the first three chapters of the book available as an e-book sometime before the summer of 2019. Furthermore, I’m hoping to get Chapter Five done this year and Chapter Six done in 2020. Lastly, there’s been tangible progress with the big band date I produced of Pepper Adams arrangements. I’ll let you know when I have more progress to report.