Jazz Birthdays: Clarence Williams (1893) and Pepper Adams (1930)

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Clarence Williams was a pianist who recorded prolifically, mostly as a sideman in the 1920s and into the 1930s. He started publishing music in 1915 and later supervised music for the race record section of Okeh records. As artist and repertoire (a & r) director, he sought out and promoted what became big name talent like Armstrong and Bechet. He eventually sold his catalogue to Decca. He also opened music stores in Chicago. Blues were big in the 1920s and Williams was a jazz entrepreneur who wrote songs, recorded as pianist, published songs, arranged recording sessions, sold records, and promoted the blues singers. He also is said to have taken credit for songs he didn’t write and to have misled Bessie Smith for awhile. Williams wrote the much-played “Sugar Blues” and he plays it here.

There aren’t all that many baritone saxophone players who have become prominent jazz soloists. Pepper Adams is one of them. Adams kept very busy; his bio says he was a sideman on 600 recording sessions. Adams played in the Lucky Thompson band, Thompson himself being a superior tenor saxophonist. Adams cited Wardell Gray (tenor sax) and Harry Carney (baritone sax) as influences; Gray was influenced by Lester Young. Indeed, one can hear something of Gray’s fluidity and capacity for melodic invention in Adams while also hearing something of Carney’s masculine approach to the horn and big sound. Adams collaborated with trumpeter Donald Byrd in the hard bop style between 1958 and 1963. On “Jeannine”, Adams’s solo starts at 5:03 in.

8:16 am on October 8, 2012