Monday, June 3, 2019

Biography Update

© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.


It’s been a busy month. Updating the entire Pepper Adams Interviews section of took a ton of time, mostly because I needed to listen to all of

them again in their entirety. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t overlook any important

facts that Pepper mentioned which might be a valuable addition to my Adams

biography. Also, it was necessary to add some mouse-over text for the user and fix

some previous errors. As of now, all fourteen interviews have been posted. All that

remains is seeing if we can improve the digital skips in the John Reid interview.

For several weeks, on and off, I’ve continued to wrestle with the opening section of

Chapter One of the Pepper bio. I just wasn’t entirely happy with it. I think now I’ve got it

where I want it.

I’m happy too with the rest of Chapter 1, and 4, and I’ve been editing Chapters 2 and 3.

Moreover, I’ve rewritten the Prologue and that’s done.

I did finish going through a stack of notes and quotations from various interviews that I

did with Johnny Griffin, Bill Watrous, Bill Perkins and others. Now that the pile of info is

sorted out, I’ve turned to my 46 microcassettes (as much as 92 hours of interview) that I

need to hear before I feel comfortable that I’ve gotten everything that I need from them.

Once finished, probably by early September, I can edit Chapter 5 and move on to Chapter

6, my final chapter.

Regarding Chapter 6, I already have 60 pages of notes and an outline. I’m hoping I can

breeze through it, then make some valuable concluding comments.

As for the publishing the first half of the bio soon, I think that this will be pushed ahead to

early next year. I just have too much work to do before I get to that point. Before it’s done,

I’ll be establishing a mailing list, very long overdue, at

Below are some recent interview excerpts I hope you enjoy that I’ve added to my notes:

Pepper Adams to Ben Sidran:

“If you play everything legato, and don’t use the tongue -- and don’t outline where the
note is going to hit -- everything tends to run together because it is lower pitched. It has
no rhythmic impact, or impulse, behind it. I’ve tried to use a legato tongue so that there
is differentiation between the notes. I’ve tried to do a lot with articulation because that
has a lot to do with what the time feeling is going to be. And, if you fail to articulate on
baritone, or particularly on lower pitched instrument, it is going to be one constant rumble
after a while.”

Bill Watrous to Gary Carner:
“Every time he played, it was an adventure,” said Bill Watrous. “His ideas, and his
conception of the stuff that he was trying to play, was totally original. I would say, more
so than anybody else [who] ever played that instrument.”

“Pepper had an angularity about his playing, like a jagged sort of approach, that was very
much like the way Sonny Rollins approaches the instrument. Sonny goes at the instrument
from all angles -- from the left, from the right, and under, and goes that way. Pepper,
basically, did the same thing. Pepper had incredible technique. Pepper didn’t just run the
changes. Pepper played all over the changes. I think they sort of approached their music
from a similar direction.”

“The sense of humor was amazing! Pepper would play: I found myself laughing to myself a
lot when Pepper would play some of the things he would play.”

Bill Perkins to Gary Carner:
“He’s one of the true giants of jazz. He stood out in that rare group of jazz soloists, the great giants
of all time, people like Bird and Prez. And John Coltrane has become that. I think that Pepper was
that on his instrument. And Diz. They’re in an area where very few have done the creative work that
they’ve done.”

Johnny Griffin to Gary Carner:
“He was never a pushy person. Maybe that’s what kept him from being more of a giant, as
far as the public is concerned, because he was never aggressive.”

Ron Kolber to Gary Carner:
“He would send me a tune, an old tune,” said Ron Kolber. “Every time we’d see each other, he’d
say, ‘You know this one?’ We used to try to stump each other with old tunes. One his favorite tunes
was a tune by the name of ‘Says My Heart.’ It’s an old tune. Always digging for old tunes; that was a
little hobby with him. He said that some of the early tunes were really great. . . . He had great interest
in the old-timers. Any of the old-timers. He would listen to all of the old records. He said, ‘That’s where
we’re from.’ He said, ‘If we listen to that, we’re gonna get to where we are, and maybe beyond, but
you can’t start in the middle and go. You gotta go all the way back.’”

Finally, here’s three clips of tunes that Anders Svanoe performed at his recent concert dedicated to
Pepper, and a video of Pepper conducting an after-concert interview:

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.