Is it a coincidence, Mr. Adams, all last week I listened to Pepper Adams Plays Charlie Mingus, Lee Morgan’s The Cooker, read a chapter in Al Young’s memoirs Body and Soul about hearing you at the World Stage in Detroit in 1955, and now I’m having a conversation with you at my favorite neighborhood record store Car City Records on Sunday? I discovered years ago, Sunday is the best day to shop here. It’s not crowded. Mr. Adams, I don’t make it a habit of approaching folks in public places, but it’s rare I encounter a hometown music legend.
I'm surprised you’re not combining through the jazz bins. I would’ve never thought you like R&B music, particularly John Legend. Are you thinking about buying Kenny “Baby face” Edmond’s greatest hits album, too? You should cop it. Edmond is an amazing songwriter.
I know you don’t have a lot of time to chat with me. I have to tell you how “Pepper Adams Plays Charlie Mingus” really captured how multi-faceted the bassist was. The Detroiters Hank and Thad Jones, Charles McPherson, and Paul Chambers helped you show Mingus was a swinger, a blues shouter, and a political activist in his own right.
Mingus helped you select the compositions for the date. Is that true? I heard the bassist was a stickler, and quick to chastise. What kind of relationship did you have with him? Did he ever single you out? Nicknamed “ the knife,” and being a Detroiter probably made Mingus think twice about bullying you. I heard the bassist had a love hate relationship with Detroit cats. A jazz friend told me Mingus said Detroiters were too heavily into bebop.
On I0 to 4 at the Five Spot, The Pepper Adams Quintet, and Encounter should prove you couldn’t be typecast as a Detroit bebopper. On Lee Morgan album The Cooker you stole the show. Allegedly you cut Coltrane to pieces on Dakar, an album released by Prestige Record considered a classic blowing session. You had something extra special. With that piercing, deep tone on the baritone sax, you cut everybody who challenged you. I bet that’s why bandleaders such as Mel Lewis, Benny Goodman, and Lee Morgan wanted you by their sides.
Mr. Adams, I respect your loyalty to other Detroit jazz musicians. On most of your albums you hired Detroiters. Some were your running buddies from the World Stage and the Bluebird Inn. You could have employed musicians from other cities, but you reached back. Detroit jazz musicians have an unbreakable fraternal loyalty.
Listening to “Pepper Adams Plays Mingus,” I imagined Mingus was sitting in the studio with his hand on his belly, his eyes closed, soaking up the music. You were cooking because throughout the session Mingus was patting his feet. Mingus got the holy spirit when you soloed on “Better Get It In Your Soul”. Okay, so it really didn’t happen that way. Remember, Mr. Adams, I’m just fantasizing.
I bet Mingus was happy with the outcome. I know I’ve talked you ear off. You probably want to get home and listening to that John Legend and Babyface album.