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Old Aug 6, 2008, 07:55 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Jazz Feature for August 11:Pepper Adams:"Conjuration".

That Park 'Pepper' Adams was one of the major voices of the modern baritone saxophone poses no argument. He rejected the softer approaches favoured by Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff and Cecil Payne and came directly from Harry Carney through Leo Parker to his own brusque, muscular sound and a concept honed by the intricacies of bebop. Adams' lines have not only great power but reflect an inner knowledge of chord progressions and all their substitutions that make his solos sound as if they are almost written out and compositional. Pepper Adams' sound and musical approach led to one of his nicknames: "The Knife". It seemed that he could cut through the densest of musical textures created by Mingus or Thad Jones and burst through with assertion and the 'Pepper Adams' sound. He was a Jazz powerhouse right up to the end of his life when he succumbed to lung cancer.

Park Adams was born in Highland Park, Michigan on October 8 1930. He got the name "Pepper" from his resemblance to baseball star Pepper Martin. He died in New York on September 10, 1986. Lung cancer was the cause and Adams was a life-long heavy smoker not only on the baritone saxophone. He began on piano and then to the tenor saxophone and began playing while still a teenager with such Detroit heavies as Lucky Thompson, Barry Harris and others on the scene. He toured(on tenor) with Lionel Hampton in 1947 then was in the army from 1951-53, by that time he had switched to the baritone saxophone. Pepper Adams was a good friend of this writer and told me that aside from Carney and Leo Parker, the most impressive baritone player he ever heard was the great Wardell Gray (better known as a one of the most important tenor players). He said that hearing Wardell, convinced him to commit to the baritone. Adams went on the road in the mid-fifties with Stan Kenton, and Maynard Ferguson and toured with Chet Baker and began recording under his own name. He moved to New York in 1958 and and by that time had established himself as one of the leading voices on the scene. He recorded and played with Donald Byrd, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, and later became one of the founding members of the amazing Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band. After leaving Thad and Mel, Adams freelanced for the rest of his career and recorded some astounding albums in the 70's and 80's. Records such as 'Encounter' (with Zoot Sims) on Prestige, 'Ephemera' on Spotlight, 'Julian' on Enja, 'Reflectory' and 'The Master' on Muse and many others are all worth searching for.

Tonight's Feature is called 'Conjuration' and the combination IS magical with the Adams' baritone on the front line with Kenny Wheeler's melancholic and soulful trumpet and flugelhorn. Wheeler and Adams met and hit it off at Edmonton's 'Jazz City' Festival in 1981 and this recording is their musical relationship at maturity. It's a live date performed at 'Fat Tuesday's' in New York in 1983. Pepper picked the rhythm section and it's a formidable one with the great Hank Jones on piano, underrated bass virtuoso, the late Clint Houston and Louis Hayes on drums. The tunes are mostly Pepper's with one great standard, 'Alone Together' in the mix and one by Thad Jones. One of the highlights of the date is Pepper's tune, "Dobbin", dedicated to one of the mainstays of Jazz in Montreal; Len Dobbin, who was not only a great friend of Adams but one of the foremost Canadian Jazz writers and broadcasters. That's the Feature just a little after 11pm but join me at 9pm for the full show or listen later via the podcast. See you then.
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