Brush with greatness

How many times can you have the chance to play with one of the all-time greats? For me, not that many.

But, in 1984, I had the privilege of playing in Singapore with Pepper Adams, arguably the greatest bari sax player in jazz history, or (inarguably) certainly one of the top three, along with Harry Carney and Gerry Mulligan.

This comes to mind because of the recent release of two CDs under my leadership that feature Pepper’s compositions. They’re under the auspices of an all-Pepper website: It’s the masterwork of Gary Carner, who has spent 25 years compiling and annotating all things Pepper. A towering achievement.

I recall that I had mixed feelings about traveling to Singapore to play with Pepper. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to do the gig. Don’t laugh: the gig conflicted with the World Series, and it looked like my beloved Cubs would be participating. But Rick Sutcliffe, Leon Durham, Lee Smite and Steve Garvey kindly ensured that there would be no such conflict, so I was able to give my full attention to hanging on for dear life as I played with this jazz icon.

I encourage you to check out the website and explore the overlooked legacy of Pepper.