Jazz Birthdays: J. C. and Pepper–Detroit connections | October 8, 2012
Pepper Adams 1930-1986
Born in Highland Park, MI, baritone saxophonist and composer Pepper Adams spent 10 years in Detroit (1946-1956) working with the cream of the crop: Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers, Don Byrd, Curtis Fuller, the Jones Brothers and Yusef Lateef. A stint with Stan Kenton’s orchestra took him to the West Coast; signing up with Maynard Ferguson took him back to New York, where he quit the band and went back west with Chet Baker. Back in NY once again, he became a founding member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band, where he was known for playing hard-bop on his baritone like no one else before him.
We called him ‘The Knife’ because when he’d get up to blow, his playing had almost a slashing effect on the rest of us. He’d slash, chop, and before he was through, cut everybody down to size. ––Mel Lewis
J. C. Heard 1917-1988
Before settling in Detroit in 1966, where he was a popular bandleader and beloved mentor to younger musicians, J. C. Heard worked in New York, toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic and spent some time in Japan and Australia. Known as a versatile and supportive drummer, he was influential in both swing and bop, one of jazz’s most recorded and widely traveled musicians.
Dizzy Gillespie said three men wrote the rules for modern jazz drumming: Kenny Clarke, Max Roach and J. C. Heard.
[Portrait of J. C. (James Charles) Heard, Café Society (Downtown)(?), New York, N.Y., ca. July 1946] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)