|Joy Road: The Complete Works Of Pepper Adams|
by Willard Manus
It pays to have friends in high places. In the case of Pepper Adams, the late master of the baritone sax, it was the jazz historian and owner of a wine brokerage, Gary Carner.
After meeting in 1984--two years before Adams' untimely death at 56--Carner began to help the musician write his autobiography. When Adams' cancer cut short his life, Carner decided to publish an annotated discography and to help subsidize a five-volume digital box set of Adams' work (Motema Music).
In addition, Motema has released two physical CDs: a stand-alone version of Volume 5: I CARRY YOUR HEART: ALEXIS COLE SINGS PEPPER ADAMS and JOY ROAD SAMPLER, a CD of highlights from the digital box that is being sold in stores and online.
Carner didn't stop there. Together with Motema, he organized a thirty-city promotional tour which kicked off last September in NYC and continued for another six weeks in major cities in the USA and Canada. One of the tour's highpoints was a concert at Birdland at which new arrangements of Pepper Adams compositions were performed by the Bevan Manson string quartet.
On I CARRY YOUR HEART, Alexis Cole sings Pepper Adams in ground-breaking fashion. The eight tunes on the disc are instrumental ballads to which the poet Barry Wallenstein has added lyrics. Wallenstein, a jazz fan and literary mentor to
Carner, has perfectly captured Adams' sensitive and lyrical qualities, allowing Cole to turn each tune into a musical tour de force.
On the JOY ROAD SAMPLER, three different groups, the Jeremy Kahn Quarter, Frank Basile Sextet, and Kevin Bales Quartet breathe new life into eleven of Adams' bestknown compositions, including Doctor Deep and In Love With Night. Adams' distinctive long, tumbling, melodic lines get worked over in stimulating fashion.
Jazz doesn't get much better than this--and neither does one man's friendship for another.
(Motema.com; pepperadams.com; jazzforwinelovers.com)