WPI band does right by Jazz legend Adams.


Byline: Peter Landsdowne


WORCESTER - Rich Falco, director of jazz studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Gary Carner, jazz historian and an authority on the life and work of the late jazz baritone saxophonist Park "Pepper" Adams, made jazz history Sunday night at WPI's Alden Memorial Hall with the world premiere of arranger Osian Roberts big-band chart of the Adams composition "In Love with Night," which featured lyrics by poet Barry Wallenstein.

The premiere was part of a presentation titled "The Music of Pepper Adams," which featured the 22-piece WPI Stage Band, the smaller WPI Jazz Ensemble, and baritone saxophonist Mark Weissman and trumpeter Doug Olson as guests. Singer and WPI faculty member Monica Hatch handled the poet Wallenstein's moving lyrics on the "In Love with Night" premiere.

Carner, author of the book Pepper Adams' "Joy Road: An Annotated Discography" and producer of the boxed CD set "Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams," maintains that Adams (1930-1986) was "one of the great stylists in jazz history." Best known as a baritone saxophonist, Adams also wrote 42 compositions, 14 of which were featured in "The Music of Pepper Adams." Carner commissioned arrangers Tony Faulkner, Frank Basile, Frank Griffith and Osian Roberts to write the charts of the Adams compositions, and there are more coming.

The WPI Stage band tackled Adams' "Freddie Froo," which Adams named after 1950s Detroit jazz drummer and hipster Fred Metcalf, and easily negotiated the composition's complex twists and turns, thanks to Falco's deft conducting. Baritone saxophonist Weissman and trumpeter Olson, the two guests, rode on top of the arrangement and brought to mind Adams' collaboration with trumpeter Donald Byrd in their 1950s jazz quintet with incendiary solos throughout the concert.

The WPI jazz groups also did justice to the brooding "Reflectory," Adams' most recorded original and a Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, and performed both "Binary," a hip blues, and "What Is It?," an Adams original based on the chord changes to "What Is This Thing Called Love?," with aplomb.

Two Adams originals dedicated to other jazz musicians were interesting in their juxtaposition. The contemplative "Julian" was written in honor of the...

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