Pepper Adams (born Park Adams III on October 8, 1930 in Highland Park, Michigan - died on September 10, 1986 in Brooklyn, New York), was a jazz baritone saxophonist, who is widely considered one of the most significant and influential baritone saxophonists in jazz. Nicknamed "The Knife" for his sound on the horn, his hearty tone and driving rhythmic sense provided the antithesis to the lighter, floating (and consequently more popular) styles of his contemporary Gerry Mulligan.
Adams' family moved to Rochester, New York when he was young and in that city he began his musical efforts. Then when he was sixteen he moved back to Detroit, Michigan, near where he had been born, and where he met several musicians who would later be important to his career, including trumpeter Donald Byrd. Adams now became interested in Wardell Gray's approach to the baritone saxophone, later saying that Gray and Harry Carney were his baritone influences. He also spent time in a United States Army band and briefly had a tour of duty in Korea.
He later moved to New York City where he played on the album Dakar by John Coltrane, played with Lee Morgan on The Cooker, and briefly worked with Benny Goodman's band in 1958. During this time, Adams also began his work with Charles Mingus, performing on one of Mingus' finest albums from this period, Blues & Roots. He recorded with Mingus sporadically from this time until the latter's death in 1979. He later became a significant member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band from 1965 to 1978, and continued to record Jones' compositions on many of his albums. Adams also co-led a quintet with trumpeter Donald Byrd with whom he recorded a live date, 10 to 4 at the 5 Spot featuring Elvin Jones.