Pepper Adams' Plays Charlie Mingus is a watershed album in Adams' long career. For starters, Mingus himself had a hand in the selection of material for the dates, along with Adams and vibist Teddy Charles. Next, the two dates here, September 9 and 12, 1963, were recorded with two different bands. Most of the material was taped on the earlier date with an octet comprised of Adams, Mingus' own drummer, Danny Richmond, bassist Paul Chambers, and Thad Jones on trumpet and his brother Hank on piano. The latter date added Charles McPherson on alto, Zoot Sims on tenor, Bennie Powell on trombone, and had Bob Cranshaw replacing Chambers on bass.
Centered around the Byrd/Adams Blue Note dates Byrd in Hand, Chant, Royal Flush, The Cat Walk, and Off to the Races, Mosaic's Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions finds the Detroit natives at the top of their game during 1959-1962. Writing and performing some of the most original and tight hard bop around, Byrd and Adams led a variety of combos that featured the likes of Herbie Hancock (his first session), Wynton Kelly, Duke Pearson (who also contributed material), Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins. From distinct covers ("Lover Come Back to Me") to seamlessly complex originals ("Bronze Dance"), Byrd's pure-toned trumpet and Adams' angular baritone unexpectedly make a perfect match. And beyond a wealth of sides that prove the point, the collection also features – in typically thorough and classy Mosaic fashion – some stunning session photos by Blue Note lensman Francis Wolff and an extensive essay by Bob Blumenthal. A hard bop experience of the highest order.