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10 to 4 at the 5-Spot: PEPPER ADAMS Quintet

RLP-117 118 A
RLP-117 118 front
RLP-117 118 back.jpg
RLP-117 118 A.jpg
RLP-117 118 B.jpg

Donald Byrd (tp) Pepper Adams (brs) Bobby Timmons (p) Doug Watkins (b) Elvin Jones (drs)

(Omit trumpet on You’re My Thrill.)   

Recorded at the FIVE SPOT CAFÉ, New York; April 125, 1958


1. 'Tis (theme) (5:42) (Thad Jones)

2. You're My Thrill (4:55) (Clare – Gorney)

3. The Long Two/ Four (10:27) (Donald Byrd)


1. Hastings Street Bounce (11:08) (traditional/ arr. Pepper Adams)

2. Yourna (6:35) (Donald Byrd)

   PEPPER ADAMS is, in current jazz jargon, “a very tough man.” This does not mean that Pepper, who is a rather thin, mild-looking, quite soft-spoken young man with a dry sense of humor, goes around picking fights with people. “Tough,” in this usage, is both an accurate description of the impact of his playing and a reference to the fact that he is mighty tough competition for just about any horn man.

   In the Spring of 1958, Adams, the “New Star” choice on baritone sax in the preceding year’s Down Beat Critics Poll, brought a quintet into New York’s Five Spot Café for an intended two-week run that came closer to two months before it ended. The group, featuring some of the many exceptional young musicians who have in recent years emigrated to New York from Detroit, is notably hard-swinging, spirited and close-knit. The playing of Adams, Donald Byrd and the rest is of course the main story of this album. But the unusual club in which they were working, and in which the LP was recorded, is also very much a part of the story. . .

   On-the-spot recording of jazz performance is always a very tempting prospect, promising – if all goes well – greater spontaneity and spirit and less self-consciousness than can be guaranteed in the recording studio.  But it also offers potential problems all its own: acoustics and layout not necessarily ideal for recording; the impracticality of stopping a “take” if someone hits a passing clinker; the possibility that some high-flying customer will shout something censorable in the middle of a great solo. Balancing pros and cons, record companies usually prefer the more readily controllable studio way of doing things. Once in a while, however, the temptation grows too strong: a group that seems particularly well-suited for on-the-spot recording is playing in a particularly intriguing club, and you decide to try it.

   Such circumstances led Riverside to bring its equipment into the Five Spot during Pepper’s engagement there to sample a full evening’s action: from, as the album title notes, 10 P.M. to 4 A.M. Since jazz can be so much a product of its surroundings, it should be pointed out that the Five Spot, which first became an important factor on the New York jazz scene in 1957, has quickly gained a reputation among musicians as a club significantly lacking in tension or formality, and unusually good, relaxed place to play in. The atmosphere of the club and the talents of the Adams quintet seemed to us a most exciting combination. We hope we’re correct in feeling that this album vividly captures that excitement.

   The Five Spot is by no means an ordinary night club (which is intended as a compliment). About as far from stuffy formality as you can get, it is – to come right out with it – not really a “night club” at all. It is unashamedly a bar. Something under a hundred people will (and do) crowd it; the waiters do not hover; the customers do not necessarily wear jackets; and the bar is probably the best vantage point for seeing and hearing the band. Located close by that part of lower Manhattan known as the Bowery, it is in an area that has been breathing somewhat more steadily since that shadow of the archaic Third Avenue El was removed from above it. The native now include many of the same sort of people of varying artistic bent who used to inhabit Greenwich Village exclusively; these mix with jazz fans and musicians to make up the basic clientele. As if in deference to this fact, the walls are spattered with as extensive and colorful a collection of out-of-date posters advertising art exhibits as you’ll find anywhere, and, mixed in among them, jazz-concert posters (equally out-of-date). The purpose is mood, not information! Possibly it is symbolic that a figure of Thelonious Monk (whose long, highly successful engagement in 1957 really put the place on the jazz map) seems to preside over the proceedings from on the top of the air conditioning unit; it is the work of a sculptor who lives just a few blocks away. . .

   Pepper Adams and his associates belong to a category of jazz musicians that is perhaps not as large as it might be; those who play with drive and enthusiasm and humor, who make it clear that they mean it and that they like what they are doing. Pepper, who appears to swing somewhat more than is humanly possible on the baritone, first gained the attention of the jazz world through his work with Stan Kenton in 1955, and then played for a time with Chet Baker. But despite such precious associations, his jazz tastes and feelings lie completely with the warmer, harder groups with which he ahs worked and recorded most recently.

   Born in Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, in October of 1930, and brought up in Rochester, N.Y., Adams early jazz indoctrination came through hearing the big bands of Ellington, Basie and Lunceford in local theaters. Back in Detroit at 16, and having already begun to play clarinet and tenor sax, he became fascinated by an unclaimed baritone that had been brought for repairs into the music store where he was working. Pepper persuaded his boss to sell the instrument to him, and his career was launched. He played locally with the late Wardell Gray (a close friend; Pepper was to be one of his pall-bearers), Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, and in a band led by Lucky Thompson. In those formative years, his principal influence was the big, deep sound of Coleman Hawkins; on baritone, Pepper most respected Harry Carney, whom he had known since boyhood. After Army service (1951-53), Adams came on to New York. The going was rough (there was a particularly stultifying daytime job in an insurance company office) until Oscar Pettiford helped him to get into the Kenton band, which, although he actually wasn’t to say there for long, was the turning point – the start of an upward climb in jazz popularity that seems likely to take him very high indeed.

   DONALD BYRD, ELVIN JONES and DOUG WATKINS are all fellow-Detroiters, whom Adams first hit New York; his constantly improving tone, technique and imagination indicate that he will continue that way. Jones, a brother of pianist Hank and trumpeter Thad (and unrelated to all others of the starting number of current jazzmen of that last name), has worked with J. J. Johnson and Sonny Rollins; he is a drummer of striking inventiveness and much fire, qualities that are particularly in evidence here on Byrd’s jazz march, The Long Tow/Four. Watkins is firm young bassist who has worked and recorded extensively with top Eastern groups; BOBBY TIMMONS, the quintet’s only non-Detroit member, is a promising young pianist whose credits include service with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

   The selections here, as culled from the full night’s work, immediately reflect one distinctive fact of ‘live’ recording: the natural tendency to stretch out freely and at greater length than in the studio. Actually, Pepper noted, “we were holding down a hit; sometimes, when we really get going, one tune can last for a half hour, but I didn’t think you’d want that.” Included are the group’s theme, ‘Tis, written by Elvin Jones’ brother Thad (reputedly, Thad wrote two tunes on the same day: one was a blues – ‘Tis – and the other was not – ‘Tain’t); a standard ballad (You’re My Thrill) spotlighting Pepper in lyrical vein; two examples of Byrd’s fine composing talents: the sensitive Yourna and the swinging 2/4 march; and a rousing blues, Hastlings Street Bounce, adapted by Pepper from a number remembered from and old recording.

   Other Riverside LPs featuring one or more members of this group include –

JOHNNY GRIFFIN Sextet; with Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd (RLP 12-264)

Man Bites Harmonica!: JEAN THIELEMANS; with Pepper Adams (RLP 12-257)

GIGI GRYCE and the Jazz Lab Quintet; featuring Donald Byrd (RLP 12-229)

This Is New: KENNY DREW; with Donald Byrd (RLP 12-236)

BOBBY JASPAR, tenor and flute; with Elvin Jones (RLP 12-240)

A HIGH FIDELITY Recording (Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).

Produced, and notes written by, ORRIN KEEPNEWS.

Cover designed by PAUL BACON; cover photographs: SHEILAGH COULTER.

Engineer: RAY FOWLER.


553 West 51st Street  New York 19, N.Y.

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