Sunday, December 4, 2022

Update on Pepperback Edition


I hope everyone stateside had a terrific Thanksgiving

and start to the holiday season. I’ve been busy packing

because I have to move to a new place by May 31. So

far, only one papercut.

Yesterday I received the galleys to Pepper Adams:

Saxophone Trailblazer. I have to submit final changes by

mid-January. The book is still on target for a Fall, 2023


This, of course, will be the paperback edition of Reflectory:

The Life and Music of Pepper Adams. It’s devoid of music

links, all the photos from Adams’s estate, and at least half

the text. But, as a slimmed down abridged edition, it will be

available as a “real” book, and should raise Pepper’s profile.

Also, Reflectory will stay in print for those OK with an ebook

and who want to hear all this great music.

In the last few weeks I’ve updated all of the Adams

chronologies with new research, so check them out here: 

A lot of new content at can be expected in

the next few months, including new interviews and radio shows

with me, new performances of Pepper’s compositions, and

vintage videos of Adams that have never before been seen.

Have a great holiday. Talk to you next year.


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Kind Words about Reflectory


A few days ago I received a wonderful Facebook

message from Tony Wolton regarding Reflectory:

I'm going through the book for a second time, a must have

item not just for lovers of Pepper Adams and his music, but

anyone interested in the Detroit/New York jazz scene 1950's

onwards. Before the book, what little I knew about him came

from LP liner notes and anything I might glean from a magazine

or two. The man was a genius. One reference from the book

and then I'm done: In 1968 (or thereabouts), Miles Davis played

first set at a gig so he could get off early. Don't forget Miles was

getting into strange stuff by then, but held back in the wings to

hear the whole of Adams' set. He dug what Pepper played. How

many others would Miles Davis have hung back for?


Here’s a link to the book, where you can read some about it and

buy it: 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

October Doings


Instead of writing the blog post last weekend, I spent

much of my time preparing documents for SUNY Press

for the forthcoming paperback edition of the Pepper

Adams biography. The publisher required a bunch of

forms, including a Marketing Questionnaire and

Photograph Spreadsheet, that took about twenty hours

to complete. Fortunately, all of them are now done,

submitted, and in their hands for processing. I've been

told to expect the book to hit and other

booksellers late next year.

For those of you who are adverse to buying or reading

ebooks, or those awaiting the paperback edition, let me

remind you of a few things. The paperback edition is

greatly abridged, maybe as much as half of the original

text. Moreover, all of the 450 music links are removed.

Also deleted are all of the incredible photographs. My

suggestion is to grab the ebook, if for no other reason

than to hear all of the great music. I carefully chose my

favorites, half of which have never been released! See:

Yesterday was Pepper Adams’s 92nd birthday. Also,

baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber, arguably Pepper’s

first disciple, passed away yesterday. It reminded me of

Harry Carney’s death. He too died on Pepper’s birthday.

How weird is that?

A few announcements. Several updates have been

made to Three musician

roundtables that I hosted about Adams are now far more

visible on the site's homepage:  Second, new transcriptions have been added:

I’m also pleased to announce that Noah Pettibon is the

new co-author, along with John Vana, of the third book

on Pepper Adams. Intended as a complement to my

biography, this will be a musicological study of Adams’s

style. Their intention is to write it in two parts, one for the

lay reader, the other for musicians. Vana and Pettibon’s

expected publication date is 2030, Adams’s centennial.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Paperback Edition


Not a post since May? Gosh, where did the time go? I hope

everyone had a great summer. I’ve been caught up getting

the paperback edition of Reflectory ready for publication,

plus satisfying my publisher’s requirements in order to

acquire their contract. It was quite a lengthy task.

I’m pleased to announce that SUNY (State University of

New York) Press has agreed to publish the paperback

edition of my Pepper Adams biography. As I mentioned in

the Author’s Note to Reflectory,academic presses limit jazz books to around 250 pages.

Thus, Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer, will be a

highly abridged version of Reflectory, quite a different book. 

Stripped down to its essentials, a great deal of detail has been deleted. Many photographs from the Estate of Pepper Adams have been removed, replaced by only a few photographs and documents. The most glaring difference is the removal of all 450 music links and discussion of much of that music.

Nevertheless, I’m excited to have a chance to get a hardcopy version out to the public. Plus, the ebook edition will remain in print and available. I see it as the best of both worlds; a great opportunity to get the word out about Pepper Adams

Cutting down the book was a fascinating exercise. I quickly

realized once again how much easier it is to delete text than

to write it. The mandate was to convert a 730-page book to

about 165 pages, leaving enough room for an index. The

first few steps were easy. I deleted all photographs, changed

the text spacing from 1.25 inches to 1.15, and omitted all

discussion of private and audience recordings. Then, I

deleted one of the forewords and combined some of the end

matter.  That left me with 452 pages. A nice start, but still far

from the required goal.

Getting the book shorter required additional spacing tweaks,

reducing the font of the end matter and block quotes, and

significant excisions as the end product of two complete re-

readings. The first one was cut, cut, cut. “Snoops” as Chico

Marx told Harpo in Duck Soup, after each snip they made of

the boat captain’s mustache. My second pass through

allowed me to cut further and smooth out some of the

transitions that were adversely affected by the deletions. In

some cases, it required moving paragraphs around,

sometimes to other chapters.

The paperback edition needs to be submitted by October 15.

Fortunately, the text is done, but I have a short window in

which to acquire new photographs and documents, get them

in high-resolution form, obtain written permissions for them,

and write captions. I also have to add a brief discography that

I’ll entitle Recommended Recordings. The index can be

submitted later, once the book is edited and typeset.

If anyone can recommend a better title, don’t hesitate to let me

know. I’d prefer something poetic, but was advised that having

“saxophone” in the title would increase sales. Please reply


SUNY is an ambitious press, publishing more than 150 books a

year. Even with my submission in a few weeks, their lengthy

production queue will delay publication for some time. You can

expect the book to be available at Amazon and elsewhere

around this time next year. Meanwhile, check out Reflectory, and

dig the thousands of hours of great Pepper performances, taken

from broadcasts and audience recordings, that you’ve never heard!:

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Reflectory Updates


I’m sorry I missed last month’s posting. I was working

round the clock to get a new ebook draft completed and

got completely caught up with it that weekend. Then it

turned out I couldn’t post it because my publisher, Lulu,

requires very strict and tricky formatting and I screwed it

up. Over the last few weeks I’ve been tediously

comparing the old and new versions. But good news: I’m

almost done, it's better than it was before, and it should

be posted soon as the new and improved Revised Edition.

I want to thank all of you who have purchased my Adams

biography. I just hit the 100-sale mark, and that seems

pretty good considering my marketing campaign thus far

has been strictly grassroots and word-to-mouth. I’ve heard

some very kind things about the book from people I respect,

though I’ve gotten a few surprising criticisms. Two stick out.

One is that they object to my reverse-chronological approach

to the second half. They favor the conventional birth-to-death

progression. Gosh, don't they watch movies? Aren’t

flashbacks and retrospective narratives rather common?

Frankly, after writing the first half, I was looking for something

different to do with the storytelling. I welcomed the challenge

to render it this way.

The other objection I’ve heard, albeit only once but in a

forthcoming review, is my penchant for writing asides.

Admittedly, after 37 years of work and thought about jazz, I

had a lot to say. I was after a contextualized, sociohistorical

account of Pepper’s life. Two sections I wrote but eventually


( and

(, were too off-topic so I parked them at And three times I entitled sections as Interludes to in some

way separate it from Pepper’s life story, but, again, to add

more depth. In all cases I tried to make the book move

ahead quickly. Oh well. As they say, you can’t please


Some are waiting for the book to be released in hardcover

and paperback. I have a publisher that is considering the

book for publication, and I should know in the next month or

so whether it will be out this way, maybe even in time for

Christmas. As expected, I will have to scale down the book’s

length considerably, and it will not include any music links

nor nearly as many photographs. The hallmark of the ebook

version is its 450 music links, half of which have never seen

the light of day. So, grab the ebook if you dig Pepper’s playing.

Much of the music is quite obscure, and many of the audience

recordings and broadcasts are remarkable!

Sunday, March 6, 2022

February Doings


February was a productive month, even though the great

bulk of my Adams work is now completed. First, continues to grow as an amazing

research and performance tool. The transcription page

( now exceeded 100 solos with the addition of new ones

by John Vana and Pete Lukas. And you can expect more to

come, too, as Vana continues to study Adams’s entire oeuvre

in preparation for his Pepper book. It will be added to my

biography and also available individually in time for Adams’s

centennial in 2030. 

I’m excited to report that Dan Olson, my trusty webmaster, is

busy revamping the transcription section of the site so that each

transcription is paired with the complete performance of the tune.

In that way, musicians can get deeper into each performance by

having both the PDF of each solo and Pepper’s performance of

it at their fingertips. I hope to see the new page posted soon.

Leif Bo Petersen recently alerted me to a photo of Charlie Parker

at the Mirror Ballroom

( ).According to his research, this is the actual performance that

Pepper saw in mid-April, 1949. The photo will be added to the next

revision of my ebook. Also, Petersen wrote a very perceptive review

of Reflectory that will be published in Danish in Jazz Special. See

the English translation below.

For those who have access to “Hot Sounds on Zoom,” Jazz History

Database’s weekly internet show, I’ll be on from 5-7pm Eastern this

Thursday, March 10. I’ll be reading from my Pepper biography and

playing tunes included as links in the book that have never been

heard by the public. I hope to see you there. 

Time: This is a recurring meeting; we meet here every Thursday



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Pepper Adams Biography

Jazz historian Cary Carner, perhaps best known for his documentary

compilation The Miles Davis Companion (1996), is in the process of

creating a comprehensive work about the American baritone \

saxophonist Park "Pepper" Adams (1930–86) together with alto

saxophonist John Vana. The first part, a biography written by Carner,

was published in 2021 and is now available in a revised version. The

second part, containing musical analyses, written by Vana, will be

published in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of Adam's birth.


Carner's work is based on many years of thorough research based on

an extensive material of interviews with Adams. These are complemented

by an impressive collection of interviews with musicians who have played

alongside him and other individuals who were part of his life.

I have no doubt that the  work will stand as a definitive monument

over Pepper Adams, and it will undoubtedly create a broader interest

in and understanding of his music. Personally, before reading, like

many others, I had only a sporadic knowledge of Pepper Adams. He

was mostly a name that I often confused with west coast saxophonist

Art Pepper.  When Pepper Adams himself was subjected to such

confusion, his comment was: "My sax is bigger"  or " No, I never spent

time at San Quentin."  The lacking recognition of Pepper Adams' position

is probably due  to his main instrument, the baritone saxophone, which

as a deep-sounding instrument often has stood in the shadow of the

other saxophones. Baritone saxophonists have therefore mostly been

confined to the role of sidemen in big bands and combos.

Having now listened more carefully to his music, I have become convinced of

the merits of the status he is granted in the book: a jazz improviser in the upper

league, a musician who, like others such as Bud Powell, Wardell Gray, Fats

Navarro, and J. J. Johnson, with point of departure in Charlie Parker's musical

language, managed to make this flourish on their own instrument without being

an epigone and fully integrated into a personal expression.


The first part of the book covers the years 1930–56. Adams' upbringing and the

factors that led to his decision to become a jazz musician is treated in four

chapters. Here important factors are the possibility to listen to jazz music on

the radio and at concerts, but not least an American school system that

emphasized and allowed for musical expression and education.

At the same time, these chapters give a thorough insight into the social

background he grew up in Rochester, NY, and Detroit, MI. He lived here as

an only child together with a mother who had twice in quick succession

become a widow. She was overprotective and very controlling even after he

returned  to Detroit after completing military service in Korea at the age of 23.

You also get a thorough introduction in the musical environment in Rochester

and specially in Detroit, which in the 40s had a jazz scene that created excellent

modern jazz musicians, such as Howard McGhee, Lucky Thompson, Wardell

Gray, Milt Jackson, and Hank Jones.

Pepper Adams got his musical maturation in Detroit in the company of a new

great generation of musicians such as Barry Harris, Donald Byrd, Tommy

Flanagan, Frank Foster, and the brothers Thad and Elvin Jones.

The composition of the four chapters is unusual, starting with his and his

mother's move to Detroit in 1947 and their lives there until his military service

started in mid-1951. It works fine and provides a more varied reading experience

than a traditional chronological presentation.


The second part of the book, covering the years 1956-1986, deals in 7 chapters

with his career as a professional jazz musician and his achievement of the status

as an highly outstanding soloist on the baritone saxophone.   In this connection

we also we get a thorough introduction to the hip neo-bop environment in

Greenwich Village, NY, in the 1960s.

Here, too, the composition of the chapters is unusual. Starting with the final year

leading up to his death, the following chapters move backwards through his life

and career ending with his arrival in New York in 1956. It again provides a varied

reading experience, but after reading you are left with very kaleidoscopic overall

impression of Adams' life and career.

Told chronologically, shortly after his establishment in New York, Adams gets

a longer engagement with the Stan Kenton orchestra, which for a time takes

him to the West Coast. He returns to New York in 1957, where he starts a

career as a combo musician first in the company of Donald Byrd, Bobby

Timmons, and Elvin Jones.  In the early 1960s he had gigs with Benny

Goodman, Thelonious Monk, Lionel Hampton and Charles Mingus. In 1964

he began a combo collaboration with Thad Jones, and when the Thad

Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra was formed in 1965, Adams became a permanent

member for the next 12 years. The orchestra did not exist on a full-time basis,

so during this period he also worked alone as a soloist both in the United

States and in Europe.  Although he was successful as a big band musician,

e mostly saw this activity as a survival strategy: "Certainly, there was very

little pleasure involved, except for rehearsals.   I always like rehearsals with

a big band 'cause you've got something to react to: When you're seeing the

music for the first time and learning to play it, and getting the blend within

the section and with the other sections. All the stuff you can do at rehearsals,

that's fine.... If I stay in a big band for too long, once I have all that covered,

then it becomes hack work and is no longer interesting. The next thing is to

memorize all the parts and see if you can play all night with your book closed

– and get dirty looks from the bandleader. After you have that covered, the

only remaining challenge is to see how drunk you can get and still play the

book accurately. That can be bad for you after a period of time."

Adams left Jones/Lewis in 1977 to concentrate on his soloistic career, which

developing in the following years unfortunately ended abruptly when, in

December 1983, he  was accidentally run over by his own parked car and

sustained a serious leg fracture.  This kept him out of work for a while, and

when he finally got started again in mid-1984, he  wassoon after diagnosed with serious lung cancer. He died in 1986 after

unsuccessful radiation and chemo treatment.

The book is published exclusively as Ebook, a choice made because the market for

such a book in physical form these days is limited. I have become increasingly

accustomed to reading books and other written material in digital form. This has

the advantage that the price of the materials is cheaper and that there is more

possibility for the author to write a comprehensive book and to publish revised

editions.  Some will probably find the level of detail thus obtained for exaggerated

and distracting, while others will perceive it as an asset seen in a jazz historical

research context.

Along with the book you get hundreds of hours of music with Pepper Adams from

the period 1947–1986 in the company of Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Elvin Jones,

Roland Hanna, Tommy Flanagan, and many others. It is a big plus that the text

continuously contains links to the music that is described, so you can easily

combine reading and listening.

Gary Carner, Reflectory: The Life and Music of Pepper Adams (revised edition 2022).  559 sider. $ 24,99.

The book can be purchased here: