Pepper Adams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Pepper Adams
Pepper Adams performing at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France, July 7, 1978 (photo by John McCrady)
Background information
Birth name Park Frederick Adams III
Born (1930-10-08)October 8, 1930
Highland Park, Michigan, United States
Origin Rochester, New York, United States
Died September 10, 1986(1986-09-10) (aged 55)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Genres Jazz, hard bop, big band
Occupations Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer
Instruments Baritone saxophone, clarinet
Years active 1947-1986
Labels Savoy, Prestige, Blue Note, Warwick, Riverside, Enja, Muse
Associated acts Wardell Gray, Lucky Thompson, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, Barry Harris, Billy Mitchell, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Benny Goodman, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Charles Mingus, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, Frank Foster, George Mraz

Park Frederick "Pepper" Adams III (October 8, 1930 – September 10, 1986)[1] was an American jazz baritone saxophonist and composer. He composed 43 pieces, was the leader on eighteen albums spanning 28 years,[2] and participated in 600 sessions as a sideman.


Pepper Adams was born in Highland Park, Michigan.[1] His family moved to Rochester, New York, when he was young, and in that city he began his musical efforts on tenor sax and clarinet. At age 16, Adams moved to Detroit and switched to baritone sax; this proved to be successful, as by 1947 he was playing in Lucky Thompson's band.[3] In Detroit, Adams also met several jazz musicians who would become future partners, including trumpeter Donald Byrd. He attended Wayne State University.[4] Adams became interested in Wardell Gray's approach to the saxophone, later naming Gray and Harry Carney as his influences. He also spent time in a United States Army band, and briefly had a tour of duty in Korea.[5]

He later moved to New York City, where he played on the album Dakar with John Coltrane, played with Lee Morgan on The Cooker, and briefly worked with Benny Goodman's band in 1958. During this time, Adams also began working with Charles Mingus, performing on one of Mingus's most acclaimed albums from the period, Blues & Roots. Thereafter, he recorded with Mingus sporadically until the latter's death in 1979. He later became a founding member[3] of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band, with whom he played from 1965 to 1976, and thereafter continued to record Jones's compositions on many of his own albums.[6] Adams also co-led a quintet with Donald Byrd from 1958 to 1962, with whom he recorded a live date, 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot, featuring Elvin Jones,[7] and a sequence of albums for Blue Note.

In later years, Adams toured England and continental Europe several times, performing there with local rhythm sections, and he performed with a Count Basie tribute band at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice.[3] He died of lung cancer in Brooklyn, New York, on September 10, 1986.[8]


Pepper Adams was in many ways the antithesis of contemporary baritone players Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff, who favored melodic cool jazz. In contrast, Adams managed to bring the cumbersome baritone into the blisteringly fast speeds of hard bop like no others had before.[9] Gary Carner, Adams's biographer, described his style as having "very long, tumbling, double-time melodic lines. And that raw, piercing, bark-like timbre."[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Adams was nominated three times for a Grammy Award. In the 1975 Playboy Magazine annual music poll, he was named an All Star's All-Star. He won Down Beat's New Star award in 1957 and was named baritone soloist of the year for 1980.[8]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Gene Ammons

With Barry Altschul

  • Be-bop? (1979)

With Chet Baker

With Donald Byrd

With Kenny Clarke

  • Jazzmen: Detroit (1956)

With John Coltrane

With Richard Davis

With Red Garland

With Johnny Hammond

With Barry Harris

With Elvin Jones

With Philly Joe Jones

With The Thad Jones/ Mel Lewis Orchestra

With Arif Mardin

With Helen Merrill

  • Chasin' the Bird (Emarcy, 1979)

With Charles Mingus

With Blue Mitchell

With Hank Mobley

With Lee Morgan

With Oliver Nelson

With Duke Pearson

With Houston Person

With Lalo Schifrin

With Toots Thielmans

With Jimmy Witherspoon

Live recordings released posthumously[edit]

  • Live in Europe (1977) - Disques Futura et Marge - Impro 02[10]
  • Pepper Adams Live (aka Live Jazz by the Sea) (1977), live in California
  • California Cookin' (1983), live in California


  1. ^ a b Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1996). "Adams, Pepper". The Harvard biographical dictionary of music. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. p. 4. ISBN 0-674-37299-9. 
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  3. ^ a b c d Feather, Leonard and Ira Gitler. Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press, 1999. p.5-6
  4. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Pepper Adams | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  7. ^ "Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams: The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  8. ^ a b "Pepper Adams Dead; Baritone Saxophonist", New York Times, 11 September 1986
  9. ^ Cook, Richard and Brian Morton. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. Penguin Books, 2004. Page 10
  10. ^ a b "Disques FUTURA et MARGE - FUTURA records - MARGE records - Jazz et musiques improvisées". 2005-02-22. Retrieved 2013-08-09.