Art Pepper: Renascence
Art Pepper was one of those rare jazz players whose playing was immediately recognizable upon hearing the first few measures. Combining the technical fluidity of Charlie Parker with the pure, cool sound belying his West Coast origins, he had enough talent for two alto players.At the time of this recording, Art Pepper had just recordedLiving Legendfor Contemporary Records, one of his few visits to the studio since being released from his latest stay at San Quentin, and his first as a leader. Shortly thereafter, he found himself playing a live date in Half Moon Bay, CA, about a 1/2 hour out of San Francisco. Fortunately, someone taped this set and it was finally released on CD this year.
Although the play list has just four tunes on it, there is plenty of music here. Pepper attacks Tadd Dameron's "Good Bait" with a vengeance wheeling along at breath taking speed, but with each measure clearly articulate despite the fast pace. The one traditional standard, "Here's that Rainy Day", reveals the impressive improvising skills the alto player possessed. Deftly moving back and forth between the melody line and his extemporizations, Pepper dazzles. There are two of his originals. "What Laurie Likes" is a tribute to his wife who hung in with Pepper through thick and thin, mostly thick. Even here, despite the fact that Pepper conceived this as a love song, the playing at time takes on a very harsh tone. His "Straight Life" captures the essence of Pepper's playing style of that period. Hard driving, at times frenetic in its pacing, it makes great demands of himself and the listener. Based on the chord changes of "After You've Gone", Pepper recorded this tune several times during his career. It appears onArt Pepper Meets the Rhythm Sectionwhich consistently shows up on "Great Jazz Albums of all Times" lists. But there it was allotted just four minutes. Here it gets almost 12 minutes of Art's twisting, turning, whirling alto sax playing. demonstrating that few could match Pepper's skills at improvising.
Pepper's rhythm section for this session was made up of local musicians who start off pretty timidly. But by the time they reached the second track, they were caught up in the excitement and comported themselves quite well thereafter. Although recorded more than 25 years ago, Art Pepper's playing continues to electrify. Highly recommended. There is an excellent comprehensive Internet site devoted to Art Pepper at http://home.ica.net/~blooms/index.html that's worth a visit.
Track Listing: Good Bait; What Laurie Likes; Here's That Rainy Day; Straight Life
Personnel: Art Pepper - Alto Sax; Ed Kelly - Piano; Kenny Jenkins - Bass; Brad Bilburn - Drums