Art Pepper: Art Pepper: Mosaic Select 15

Jim Santella By

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Art Pepper
Mosaic Select 15
Mosaic Records

Featuring Art Pepper's 1956 and 1957 Aladdin sessions, which have been issued on The Return of Art Pepper (Jazz West), Collections (Intro), Modern Art (Blue Note), Just Friends (Pacific Jazz), Solo Flight (Pacific Jazz), The Art of Pepper (Omega) and The Art of the Art (Nadja), Mosaic's 3-CD boxed set portrays the alto saxophonist in familiar company, full of life and at his best. The collection includes several bonus tracks, alternate takes, and material that was previously available only on reel-to-reel tape.

Mosaic's 24-bit re-mastering provides a clear sound that lets you appreciate this artist who "grew" from Bird and who helped pioneer the cool school of West Coast Jazz. Pepper's attack was fast, fluid, and quick to turn on a dime. He was equally adept at animated bebop antics as with a tender ballad.

Paul Desmond's musical character was light and rhythmically swinging. Cannonball Adderley poured emotion from the heart. Sonny Stitt dove headfirst at a wild and furious pace, while Phil Woods and Richie Cole have been linked to a balanced set of musical skills that have allowed them to follow any path they choose. Pepper's alto saxophone tone proved to be light, resilient, and filled with rich overtones. He gave his audiences an upbeat feeling to go along with the rhythmic syncopation and spontaneous improvisation of mainstream jazz.

Ten tracks include trumpeter Jack Sheldon with Pepper, Russ Freeman, Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne. This quintet captures the essence of West Coast Jazz. On "Straight Life," the alto saxophonist drives with a hearty bebop character, as Red Norvo, Gerald Wiggins, Ben Tucker and Joe Morello help to push the session's animated character into high gear. Released in Morello's name, this one and four more tracks feature Pepper's clear instrumental voice with added emphasis from the drummer, including extended solos and trading fours. Pepper plays tenor on "Tenor Blooz," a rip-roaring adventure that features Norvo in animated, bebop-driven action.

The ten selections from Modern Art feature Pepper's quartet with Freeman, Tucker and drummer Chuck Flores. His alto saxophone soars lightly with a delicate air. "Blues In" and "Blues Out" walk at a slow pace with heavy, underlying emotion, and "Summertime" drifts slowly with enduring passion. Familiar standards and Pepper's fresh originals combine to give the listener a mixture of up-tempo bebop and beautiful ballads.

Five selections from Just Friends under Bill Perkins' name, feature a quintet with Pepper, saxophonist Perkins, pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Tucker, and drummer Mel Lewis. Perkins' tenor adds a warm quality that complements Pepper's free-flowing melodies. Their integrated harmony gives the session an exotic character.

Twelve tracks from The Art of Pepper and three alternate takes from feature Pepper's quartet with pianist Carl Perkins, bassist Tucker and drummer Flores (Disc-3). Their interpretation of classic songs in the bebop tradition comes from the mainstream with consistent results. Pepper is fluid, Perkins comps and solos with force, Tucker walks the bass conversationally, and Flores colors every song with complementary textures. The Latin beat of "Beguine the Beguine" provides an exotic ambience. "Summertime" turns out dry and empty. "Body and Soul" keeps much of its luster through Pepper's heartfelt interpretation of the melody; however, Perkins' piano counterpoint proves heavy-handed and unnecessarily dense.

While Disc-3 remains the weakest of the 3-CD set, Mosaic Select 15 brings Art Pepper into our living rooms with great care paid to re-mastering his original sound. The adventures are varied, but the alto saxophonist provides us with nearly four hours of great memories. Recommended, this Art Pepper compilation captures the spirit of a bright light from jazz's not so distant past.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Pepper Returns; Broadway; You Go to My Head; Angel Wings; Funny Blues; Five More; Minority; Patricia; Mambo de la Pinta; Walkin' Out Blues; Straight Life; Yardbird Suite; Pepper Steak; You're Driving Me Crazy; Tenor Blooz.
Disc 2: Blues In; Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Stompin' at the Savoy; What is this Thing Called Love; Blues Out; Diane's Dilemma; When You're Smiling; Cool Bunny; Summertime; Diane's Dilemma; What is this Thing Called Love; A Foggy Day; Diane-a-Flow; Zenobia; Angel Eyes.
Disc 3: Holiday Flight; Too Close for Comfort; Long Ago and Far Away; Begin the Beguine; I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me; Summertime; Fascinatin' Rhythm; Body and Soul; Without a Song; The Breeze and I; Surf Ride; Webb City; Begin the Beguine; Fascinatin' Rhythm; Webb City.

Personnel: Art Pepper- alto saxphone, tenor saxophone; Jimmy Rowles, Russ Freeman, Gerald Wiggins, Carl Perkins, Leroy Vinnegar, Ben Tucker- bass; Mel Lewis, Chuck Flores, Shelly Manne, Joe Morello- drums; Bill Perkins- tenor saxophone; Jack Sheldon- trumpet; Red Norvo- vibraphone.

Title: Art Pepper: Mosaic Select 15 | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Mosaic Records


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