Donald B. Adcock, 1925-2011


I met Don Adcock and his wife, the great poet Betty Adcock, while I was working at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh 1993-95, while trying to figure out graduate school.  So many of the good things in my life came from that store.  I met my wife Laurie there, plus Don and Betty and countless others.  Don and Betty never failed to be encouraging about my writing and my projects, and most of the time they’d make me laugh while doing it.  I had gotten hooked on Thelonious Monk in 1991 while living and working in Washington, D.C. and my affinity for jazz kicked into overdrive during the early years that I knew Don.  He was a jazz flute player and teacher.  (You can read his whole obituary from Raleigh’s News and Observer).  He could walk into the book store and tell me whether it was Tommy Flanagan or Hank Jones or Al Haig on piano on whatever CD I had playing in the store’s stereo.  This impressed me.  He also knew every tune.  He became a key Jazz Loft Project consultant, identifying music on Smith’s tapes for us.  In particular emergencies I’d play him snippets over the phone and he’d identify the tune within a few bars, often while singing or humming the tune at the same time.

Yesterday Betty called with the sad news of Don’s passing.  Last night I pulled out all the recordings Don dubbed for me on cassettes and later CD’s (my library had a separate Don Adcock Section).  I jotted down the names of everything.  Looking at the list, it occurred to me that there was nothing didactic about Don’s gift giving.  When he sent me new recordings, it wasn’t something he thought I needed to hear; it was simply something he’d been enjoying that week and he wanted to share it.  In addition, the list isn’t iconographic.  He didn’t care what the Penguin Guide or Allmusic said about a recording.  Something about the qualities of this list indicates how original Don was right until the end, always fresh, always looking for new things, always ready to share.  That’s why people loved being around him.  And Betty, too.

Here’s the list:

Two 90-minute cassettes of various renditions of “Body and Soul,” recorded off an old radio show by Gary Shivers at WUNC in Chapel Hill.

Chet Baker “In Bologna.”

Carol Sloane “Songs Sinatra Sings.”

Stan Getz “The Dolphin” and “The Lyrical Star.”

Lee Konitz “Jazz Nocturne.”

Jeanne Lee and Mal Waldron “After Hours.”

Peggy Stern Trio “Pleiades.”

Roy Hargrove “Approaching Standards.”

Jeffrey Smith

Gonsalo Rubalcaba “Discovery”

Miles Davis “The Sorcerer” and “Miles Smiles”

Lee Konitz with the Stan Kenton Orchestra

“Introducing Tierney Sutton”

Dizzy Gillespie at Montreaux 1981

Gerry Mulligan Quartet 1954

Michael Moore and Bill Charlap

Lee Konitz – Franco D’Andrea

Christian Jacob Trio

Keith Jarrett “Live at the Deer Head Inn”

Roberta Gambarini “So in Love.”

“We Three: Tenor Sax Legends” – Cohn, Sims, Gordon.

Martial Solal “Live at the Village Vanguard”

Phil Woods and Johnny Griffin “The Rev and I”

Oscar Peterson “The More I See You”

Red Norvo “The Forward Look”

Don Menza Big Band “Menza Lines”

Lew Tabackin Quartet “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”

Stan Getz Bossas and Ballads: The Lost Sessions

Oscar Peterson Jam Montreaux ’77 w/Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lockjaw Davis

Alborea – a quartet of French musicians including an accordion and two bass players

Cecil McBee Band “Unspoken”

Zoot Sims and Lockjaw Davis featuring Oscar Peterson

Stan Getz Quartet in Paris featuring Steve Swallow and Roy Haynes.

Lee Konitz “One Day with Lee”

Art Tatum “Standard Transcriptions”

Stan Getz “Yours and Mine”

Chet Baker “The Touch of Your Lips.”

Stan Getz and Kenny Barron

Rene Marie “Vertigo” and “Live at the Jazz Standard”

Chet Baker “The Last Great Concert”

Miles Davis “ESP.”

Dizzy Gillespie “Impromptu”

Maynard Ferguson “Boy with Lots of Brass.”

Judy Wexler “Dreams and Shadows”

Eddie Henderson “Dark Shadows”

Chick Corea, “A.R.C.”

Michel Legrand “After the Rain.”

Kenny Drew, Jr.  “Winter Flower”

Janice Borla “Agents of Change.”

Ann Hampton Calloway “Easy Living”

Conrad Herwig “The Latin Side of Miles Davis”

-Sam Stephenson

1 Comment

  1. Heath Said,

    May 14, 2011 @ 5:48 pm


    Thanks for this post. I was also a friend of Don’s, and he spoke of you highly and often. Actually, I think we’ve met a time or two over the years.

    I was lucky enough to receive copies of a lot of those discs, too. Don’s enthusiasm about them — and his instructions of what to listen for — made me appreciate them much more fully than I would have otherwise. He taught me how to listen to jazz, I think.

    But really, I just wanted to say that what you wrote and the list of recordings is one of the greatest tributes I can think of for the guy.

    I loved looking through your book at Don’s house and now think I will have to order a copy.

    -Heath Gardner