But Laurie Pepper brings the reader to a level of empathy and understanding that is both personable and amiable and lacking in any competing account. It is as if we are having tea with her one afternoon, sharing similar experiences in some synergistic way that only like-kind souls can.
During her cathartic coda, Laurie Pepper again becomes nakedly candid about her feelings and motivations:
"Reader, I'm going to tell you here, point blank, what ought to be implicit in all the rambling pages that have gone before: Everything that has happened to me, what I saw and heard, and all the ways I felt, if I will try to remember them completely, that is my wealth. The so-called good experiences and the so-called bad ones are what I have... ...What I am trying to say is that when I write I find my life in memory, multifaceted, complete, waiting to amaze me, my own treasure."
In between the ellipses, she shares both an incredibly painful and stark life episode juxtaposed against a youthful, innocent and sensual experience, finally equating the two experiences in a summation of her troubled and brilliant husband:
"At his best, Art found beauty in everything, even in harshness, pain, and violence. And in his music, if you pay attention, you can hear the promise. The promise is the moment of a held breath when you know, you know it is all beauty and you are reconciled with your existence in this world."
It is all beauty and you are reconciled with your existence in this world. indeed.
That, fair reader, is perfect humility and acceptance. No amount of pop psychology or 12-step syllogism will bring one there: Only self-realization.
The photograph of Laurie Pepper, taken in April 2014 by one Hugh Kenny (who is a story unto himself, if briefly, in this memoir), that closes is tome, shows a graceful beauty, still youthful in short hair and overalls, reflecting the joy of a satisfied spirit with shining eyes and an easy smile...reconciled with her existence in this world.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.