Pepper Adams with The Tommy Banks Trio: Live at Room at the Top
Record Store Day Release: April 23, 2022
Deluxe CD/Digital Release: May 6, 2022
Label: Cellar Music Group / Reel to Real Recordings

Known for his superb rhythmic sensibilities and melodic ingenuity, Adams is in full form on Live at Room at the Top with striking solo performances that further propel his stature as a versatile and imaginative saxophonist. Gary Carner, author of Reflectory: The Life and Music of Pepper Adams, underlines the ‘long-simmering disappointment’ Adams experienced throughout his career as someone who was often ignored to be a true innovator. Though Adams’ reputation was impressive, it at times worked against him. Known mainly for his work with John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd and countless other jazz legends, the saxophonist’s main locale on the side casted a shadow on his fate as a leader. The long-overdue excavation of a tape like Live at Room at the Top will help abandon such a claim, for few like them exist. With only a handful of performances showcasing Adams at the front, Live at Room at the Top is not just a cultural artifact, but a critical and necessary justification of his mastery.

Disc 1 features a rendition of Thad Jones’ “Three and One.” Jones was one of Adams’ greatest influences, and as such, Adams almost always selected a few of his exemplar’s tunes to perform at gigs. A lofty precedent is set on this opener, leaving an arresting impression that Adams’ creative faculties are both abundant and merely heating up. After this sweltering introduction, Adams properly announces himself by means of an original ballad, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” a composition that appears a few years later in his discography on Ephemera (1974). Along with the original “Patrice”, these are the only known live performances of the two Adams originals. 

Over the course of his evening in Alberta, Adams’ harmonic articulation, rhythmic command and consistency only became more defined. Adams utilizes Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” as another space for an 11-minute solo (at this point, he has already done so twice on “Three and One” and “Patrice”), something Basile directs our attention toward in his interview with Weeds. Carner adds in his essay that Adams would typically end a live set with “‘Tis,” which we might also assume to be the end after the live applause is heard as the track closes; however Cellar offers more. The second disc closes over a wave of standards, the old show tune “Time on My Hands” and the very passionate “Stella by Starlight.

Many called him a ‘jazz man’ – someone who would play no matter the circumstance and without excuses. With a posthumous release like Live at Room at the Top, listeners find a new understanding of this relentless spirit. Unedited, impressively melodic and ideologically extensive, Pepper Adams’ pageant of brilliance on Live at Room at the Top is a spellbinding adventure that unfolds and fortifies the legacy of a true inventor.

ABOUT REEL TO REAL:
Reel to Real is the archival recording imprint of Cellar Music Group. Founded by Cory Weeds in 2018, Reel to Real strives to uncover historically important, archival jazz works and make them broadly available in a variety of formats. Last July, Reel to Real’s release of Roy Brook’s Understanding was widely considered one of the top historical releases of the year with accolades from The New York Times, The New YorkerJazzTimesAll Music Guide and others.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Listen to the editorial playlist here, featuring "Oleo." Featured on "5 Record Store Day Drops You Need To Know" article here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"Here we have a cultural artifact that clearly justifies the Adams mastery of his instrument and upholds his position as bandleader and a legendary baritone player." Read the complete review here.

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"A rare recording with him as a leader, the sax man is blowing his brains out here on a load of post bop/improv that finds him stretching out and going from there." Review here.

LANCE LIDDLE
BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
"The tone, the technique is just amazing." Read the review here.

BILL KOPP
MUSOSCRIBE
"Adams was a prolific composer, active band leader and highly in-demand session player, appearing on more than 600 recording sessions." Read the review here.

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"..a most joyful listening experience." Read the 4-star review here.

KYLE SIMPLER
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"..there should be plenty of improvisational goodness here." Read the Record Store Day Release article here.

MICHAEL TOLAND
THE BIG TAKEOVER
"Adams and the trio simply swing hard, improvise indulgently, and almost casually bring the audience into the good time they’re obviously having.." Read the complete review here.

EDWARD BLANCO
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"The late, great baritone saxophonist Park Frederick "Pepper" Adams III may be gone but he is certainly not forgotten.." Read the 4-star review here.

FRANK ALKYER
DOWNBEAT
Read the Record Store Day Release article here.

PIERRE GIROUX
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Adams demonstrates his creative power and high level of musicianship throughout the live recording." Read the review here.

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
".. Adams proves rhythmic, melodic, and improvisational in this tight combo through a set of originals and standards rendered as swinging bop and lush balladry." Read the Record Store Day Release guide here.

JOHN ELIOT GARDINER
RADIO FRANCE
Listen to the full Jazz Bonus podcast episode on Pepper Adams in French here.

AD AMOROSI
FLOOD MAGAZINE
"Forever known as 'The Knife,' the intense hard-bop baritone saxophonist with a deep abiding love of R&B as a session man (to say nothing of his ax battles with John Coltrane and trumpeters Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd) truly cut and slashed his way through this 1972 live jam at the University of Alberta." Read the Record Stay Release article here.

ROBERT HAM
PASTE MAGAZINE
"Adams is in his usual fine form.." Read the full article here.

BOBBY TANZILO
ON MILWAUKEE
"The music is superb.." Read the full article here.

KEVIN WHITEHEAD
THE AUDIO BEAT
"He came to play.." Read the complete review here.

STEPHEN SMOLIAR
THE REHEARSAL STUDIO
"I find that this entire package makes for a rich listening experience." Read the review here.

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"..this gig in Edmonton, Albert was a welcome chance for him to stretch out, and stretch out he does.." Read the review here.

MARC MYERS
JAZZ WAX
"His solos are positively thrilling.." Read the complete review here.

SEBASTIAN SCOTNEY
LONDON JAZZ NEWS
"This tour de force of bebop inventiveness, this one-man throwdown, simply has to be heard." Read the complete review here.

MARTIN JOHNSON
JAZZ TIMES
"Most jazz musicians are underappreciated, baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams included.." Read the review here.

GEORG MODESTIN
JAZZ 'N' MORE
Read the complete review in German in the July 2022 issue of Jazz ’N’ More Magazine.

JACK KENNY
JAZZ VIEWS
"The whole album is a tribute to a great musician who has always played well." Read the complete review here.

SCOTT YANOW
LA JAZZ SCENE
"Live At Room At The Top [...] is well worth acquiring." Read the complete review here.

KEN WAXMAN
THE WHOLE NOTE
"Judging from their protracted applause the audience was impressed by the music. You can be too." Read the complete review in the Summer 2022 issue of The Whole Note, here.

PASCAL ANQUETIL
JAZZ MAGAZINE
"Pepper forever!" Read the full review in French in the August 2022 print issue of Jazz Magazine.

MIKE GREENBLATT
GOLDMINE MAG
"This recently excavated treasure might go a long way in preserving his legacy.." Read the complete review here.

PIOTR MICHALOWSKI
SEMJA UPDATE
"This delicious piece of Detroit-associated jazz history is required listening for anyone who likes Adams and the baritone saxophone." Read the complete review here.

PIERRE GIROUX
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
Read more about this release and the Reel to Real imprint of Cellar Music Group in this feature story here.

PATRICK DALLONGEVILLE
PARIS MOVE
Read the review in French here.

TOM HAUGEN
TAKE EFFECT
"Adams is at the top of his game across the set.." Read the review here.

DUCK BAKER
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Reel to Real has quickly established itself as one of the most dependable labels releasing previously unissued recordings. The care and attention that goes into every aspect of production is what great jazz deserves, but rarely gets.." Read the review in the September 2022 issue of New York City Jazz Record, here.

CYRIEL PLUIMAKERS
JAZZ FUEL
Read the Best Jazz Releases of 2022 list here.

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