Adams, Pepper (Park III)

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Adams, Pepper (Park III)

Adams, Pepper (Park III), jazz baritone saxophonist; b. Highland Park, Mich., Oct. 8, 1930; d. N.Y., Sept. 10, 1986. Although Adams was second in popularity to Gerry Mulligan, many musicians preferred him as an improviser. Adams was raised in Rochester, N.Y., where he first worked on tenor saxophone and clarinet. He moved to Detroit, where he made some unissued recordings in 1949 and became part of the circle of local talent including Tommy Flanagan and Thad Jones. He switched to the baritone sax and, after two years in the army, returned to Detroit, where he became a member of the house band at the Bluebird Club, accompanying Miles Davis and others, and spent a long period with Kenny Burrell’s group. He was nicknamed “The Knife” for his bold, slashing attack. He recorded with John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, and Curtis Fuller in 1956, and later that year moved to N.Y., where he became much in demand among big bands, including those of Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Thelonious Monk, and The Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orch., which performed Monday nights and occasionally toured from 1965–76. He worked with Charles Mingus around 1958 and co-led quintets with Donald Byrd (ca. 1959 to the end of 1961) and Thad Jones (mid-1960s). Adams became ill in 1985 and was diagnosed with lung cancer, which spread throughout his body. He played the 1986 Fourth of July weekend in Montreal, but returned home with pneumonia, according to his wife, Claudette. He died at home a few months later. Nick Brignola and Jerry Sawicki are among his protégées. Adams also played bassoon on a couple of Enja albums in the 1970s.


Various artists, Jazzmen: Detroit (1956); Cool Sound of Pepper Adams (1957); Critics Choice (1957); P. A. Quintet (1957); 10 to 4 at the 5-Spot (1958); Plays Compositions of Charles Mingus (1963); Encounter! (1968); Reflectory (1978); Conjuration: Fat Tuesday’s Sessions (1983); Live—Jazz by the Sea (1998).

—Lewis Porter

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Adams, Pepper (Park III)

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