Pepper Adams

Saxophone Trailblazer

By Gary Carner
Foreword by Chick Corea

Subjects: Music, Biography, General Interest, American Culture
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438494357, 254 pages, September 2023

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Part 1: Ascent (1930–1955)

1. In Love with Night

2. Now in Our Lives

3. Inanout

4. Twelfth and Pingree

Part 2: Dominion (1956–1986)

5. I Carry Your Heart

6. Claudette’s Way

7. Joy Road

8. Conjuration

9. Civilization and Its Discontents

10. Lovers of Their Time

11. Urban Dreams

12. Ad Astra


A compelling biography of virtuoso, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and how his life intersected with some of the greatest poets, writers, painters, and musicians of his time.


Pepper Adams is more than a definitive biography of Park "Pepper" Adams (1930–1986). The culmination of thirty-seven years of research, it's a fascinating account of Adams's life and times, thanks to colorful vignettes drawn from the author's 250 unpublished conversations with Adams and other esteemed musicians. These candid observations about Adams and his colleagues reveal previously confidential aspects of Adams's complex personality, his many outstanding achievements, and little-known facts about musicians with whom he worked, such as Thad Jones, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Charles Mingus, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington, Bobby Timmons, Wardell Gray, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and others. Musicians, jazz fans and collectors, and readers who enjoy a hero's journey will be intrigued by Adams's extraordinary intelligence, the extent of his influence, the reverence he commanded, and his struggle to be rewarded as the unique stylist that he was throughout his career. Moreover, readers will be enlivened by the author's unique approach to biography, in which storytelling moves thematically, sometimes in reverse chronological order.

Gary Carner is the editor of The Miles Davis Companion. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.


"Gary Carner's loving tribute to Pepper Adams finally delivers some justice to the man and to the whole range and span of his too short and underappreciated but brilliant career." — Ben Sidran, author of Talking Jazz: An Oral History

"Having known and worked with Pepper from 1955 until he left us, reading this biography makes you feel that you are there with him. His humor, wit, and devotion to music are all written about in a way that Pepper himself would have loved. Gary Carner has kept this story real." — David Amram, author of Vibrations: The Adventures and Musical Times of David Amram