Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pepper Adams Joy Road Sampler Motema 2012

Available September 11th from Motema Music.

Pepper Adams is the musical equivalent of a stealth bomber. Adams while being one of the greatest baritone saxophone players in history seemingly came out of no where and wowed the jazz world and slipped away virtually unnoticed. What was equally impressive is that Adams was a compositional titan as well as world class instrumentalist.

Gary Carner has taken on the daunting task of attempting to correct a music wrong with the release of his digital box set, Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams (Volumes 1-5). To sweeten the deal this incredible digital box set coincides with the release of an exhaustively researched book, Pepper Adams' Joy Road: An Annotated Discography. To supplement these two auspicious achievements, Motema is releasing two physical discs; a single version of Volume 5 and the release I reference here being the Joy Road Sampler.

According to Carner, Adams was a beloved figure by virtually everyone in the industry and it is their friendship and close association that offers a unique perspective and refreshing insight into one of the most over looked and at times under appreciated jazz giants of our time. In 1984,  Adams was stricken with cancer to which he eventually lost his battle however the autobiography started then is still being worked on today. Joy Road is essentially a collection of Adam's work from out of print discs and it is these 43 somewhat obscure tunes that have been turned into more of a contemporary presentation of the brilliance of Adams the composer. Pianist Tommy Flanagan who was Pepper's best friend was asked by Pepper to be sure the unfinished manuscript by Carner would eventually see the light of day so that his legacy would be a lasting testament to future generations.

The Joy Road Sampler places Adam's work in various settings and with a plethora of artists clearly demonstrating no matter the ensemble setting that Pepper Adams was truly one of the compositional jazz giants of his or perhaps any other day. Volume 1 is handled in a more intimate trio format. Volume 2 is a 4tet featuring guitarist Barry Greene. New York baritone phenom Frank Basile presides over Volume 3 with an amazing sextet  & Volume 4 moves back to the trio format with baritone phenom Gary Smulyan who just happens to have been voted Baritone Saxophonist of the Year 2012 by the Jazz Journalists Association. Volume 5 fulfills a long time wish of Adams to have lyrics set to his seven ballads. Motema vocalist Alexis Cole was taped for the role of lead vocalist and performs with such luminaries as Eric Alexander and Pat Labarbera on tenor saxophones. Poet Barry Wallenstein perhaps had the toughest gig of all to pen the original lyrics but the results are solid and act as a fitting tribute to a true genius. A variety of presentations, styles and textures are once again used on Volume 5 making this particular volume perhaps the most interesting to date. Think of it as Pepper Adams with the fast forward button punched for twenty five years later.

A typical review doesn't work here. This is a release of historical significance as much as it is an artistic triumph. Joy Road Sampler is not a melancholy look back but a celebration of what lies ahead in jazz today. From Gary Carner to the musicians to the incredible people at Motema Records, not a conventional release but a sublime experience.

An epic work.

Tracks: Enchilada Baby; Doctor Deep; Julian; Binary; Claudette's Way; Muezzin'; In Love With Night; Ephemera; Bossallegro; Joy Road; I Carry Your Heart.

Featuring: Jeremey Kahn Quartet; Jeremy Kahn Trio; Frank Basile Sextet; Kevin Bales Quartet; Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams. Including: Gary Smulyan; Barry Greene; Joe Magnarelli; Dennis Irwin.