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Late-Period Art Pepper Box Sets

Late-Period Art Pepper Box Sets

Courtesy Laurie Pepper


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It is fitting that Art Pepper’s late and most productive period enjoyed this degree of documentation. Marginalized during the majority of his haphazard career, Pepper rose above the resistance to be recognized as a true jazz original.
In his essay, "Endgame," which opens the liner notes to Art Pepper: The Complete Galaxy Recordings (Galaxy, 1989), music critic Gary Giddens said of Art Pepper's professional comeback:

"Pepper's sudden reappearance in 1975 was something of a second coming in musical circles. For the next seven years, his frequent recordings and tours, and the publication in 1979 of the autobiography he and his wife Laurie wrote, Straight Life, transformed him from a gifted altoist who had made a string of semi-classic albums in the Fifties to a touchstone for the very aesthetics of jazz music."

That "string of semi-classic albums" included the Contemporary Records releases Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (1957), Art Pepper + Eleven—Modern Jazz Classics (1959), Gettin' Together (1960), Smack Up (1960), and Intensity (1963). The latter two might be considered "semi-classic," but the former three helped define the West Coast jazz sound. They also represent Pepper's early period denouement.

Like Beethoven's, Pepper's professional career can be divided into three distinct periods:

Early: 1940-1960

While in his teens, Pepper played in Benny Carter's band and then with the Stan Kenton Orchestra where he first recorded. After a stint in the Armed Services during World War II, he returned to the Kenton Orchestra and by the mid-'50s became noted as an exceptional alto saxophonist, placing second to Charlie Parker in the 1952 Downbeat Magazine Readers Poll. This period saw Pepper recording for Savoy, Blue Note, and, finally, Contemporary Records under the empathetic direction of label owner and producer Lester Koenig, where the saxophonist conjured the template for the West Coast vibe. Pepper's tone from this period was martini brisk, dry ice with near faultless intonation and vibrato. This early section of Pepper's career ended as he exited the Contemporary Recording Studios on November 25, 1960, after completing his Intensity recording. Pepper was beginning a 15-year exile following a conviction for heroin possession.

Middle: 1960-1975

Again, like Beethoven's, Pepper's middle period was a fallow one consisting of prisons, hospitals, felonies, and what William Burroughs termed "the algebra of need." Yet there were notable recordings made during this period. Pepper's stay in prison coincided with his exposure to John Coltrane as the tenor and soprano saxophonist was in his final ascension, an influence heard in excruciating abundance on the questionably recorded Art Pepper Quartet Live in San Francisco (Fresh Sound, 1964) and Art Pepper Quintet: Live at Donte's 1968 (Fresh Sound, 1968). During the period, Pepper performed with the Buddy Rich Big Band, recording Mercy, Mercy (Pacific Jazz, 1968) The altoist was transitioning from the Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, and Paul Desmond-dominated early period toward the assimilation and integration of sound where Art Pepper would become ART PEPPER. Pepper's tone had begun to fray, notes splitting and spitting out in fits and starts, disintegrating into the white-hot particles that would reveal the saxophonist's most naked emotions pouring from his horn until the end of his life.

Late: 1975-1982

Götterdammerung. Pepper's final period found the saxophonist settling down into a style that combined his early cool jazz approach with the fiery pulpit of his early comeback period. This creative era further divides into the Contemporary Records comeback period overseen by Koenig, and the Galaxy coda, managed by Ed Michel. The first sub-period started with the release of Living Legend (Contemporary, 1975) and would include The Trip (Contemporary, 1976), No Limit (Contemporary, 1977), and Pepper's staggering debut at New York City's Village Vanguard, portions of which were released on four LPs later consolidated on The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions (Contemporary, 1995).

In November 1977, Koenig died from a heart attack just as the saxophonist's Contemporary contract was ending, leaving Art and Laurie Pepper in search of a new label. Another empathetic producer, Ed Michel of Galaxy Records, took Pepper on, directing the saxophonist until he died in 1982. Pepper enjoyed a fruitful and satisfying period where he recorded his "with strings" offering, Winter Moon (1980), his famous Maiden Voyage performances (these now collected on The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings [Omnivore Recordings, 2023]), and his sublime final duet recordings with his favorite pianist, George Cables, Goin' Home and Tête-à-Tête recorded in April and May 1982.

Overlapping these two late sub-periods were Pepper recordings made for the Japanese Atlas label and John Snyder's Artist House Records, both collected and released as boxed sets The Hollywood All-Star Sessions (Galaxy, 2001) (later re-released individually as the six-volume Art Pepper Presents The West Coast Sessions by Omnivore Recordings in 2017) and Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings (Omnivore Recordings, 2019), collected from the individual Omnivore re-releases.

This body of work represents Pepper's entire late-period career. It has finally been assembled and released sensibly and responsibly in these five box sets.

Art Pepper
The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions
Contemporary Records

By the time Art Pepper made his belated debut as a band leader on an East Coast tour, he was three studio albums into his comeback on Contemporary Records with producer and longtime friend Koenig: Living Legend (1975), The Trip (1976), and No Limit (1977). These recordings provided Pepper with new material to play live in addition to the standards with which he made his name. These recordings also established Pepper as a composer, setting him up for his comeback proper.

After appearing with the Cal Tjader Sextet for three shows at Yubin Chokin Hall, Tokyo, in April 1977 (Tokyo Debut [Galaxy, 1995]), Pepper was offered an East Coast tour, sponsored by Artists House founder John Snyder, which had Pepper opening the tour at the Bourbon Street Club in Toronto on June 16 (Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. 10: Toronto [Widow's Taste, 2018]) and then moving on to New York for the Newport Jazz Festival on June 27, followed by the first of two appearances at the Village Vanguard. From New York, Pepper hopped over to Chicago for an appearance at the Jazz Showcase captured on Live At The Jazz Showcase 1977 (Widow's Taste, 2010).

From Chicago, Pepper bounced from Boston to Dayton back to New York City and the Vanguard where Koenig arrived to record the saxophonist with pianist Cables, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Elvin Jones. Pepper, who rarely enjoyed even brief sobriety, was in the middle of a cocaine jag that was fueling his last leg of the East Coast tour. Insecure, apprehensive, and not a little strung out, Pepper opened his Village Vanguard residency by telling the crowd, "You have come to hear history made." Indeed.

Koenig flew in from Los Angeles to record Pepper at the Village Vanguard over three days, July 28-30, 1977. Each day included three shows for a total of nine shows containing 41 performances. Four LPs were released by Contemporary Records in 1977: Thursday Night At The Village Vanguard, Friday Night At The Village Vanguard, Saturday Night At The Village Vanguard, and More For Les At The Village Vanguard. These four recordings contained 21 of the 41 total performances. In 1980, Contemporary Records released Art Pepper—Live At The Village Vanguard in Japan, which added more previously unreleased performances to the discography. And this is where things sat until 1995 and the release of The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions.

Pepper used his original "Blues For Heard" as his set theme. Composed for the noted bassist John Heard, the piece is a microcosm for the entire Vanguard residency. Fractured, tentative, and brilliantly postmodern, Pepper conjures a masterpiece and method as if from thin air. The head is presented as a staggering hiccup, Jones accenting every stumble and trip with Cables following until the head concludes, Cables lays out, allowing Pepper to deliver three choruses of the late 20th-century blues before rejoining him to spin the piece into jazz mythology. Pepper solos, screeching and wailing, with the wisdom and musicality accumulated between 1955 and 1967, including the Coltrane ascension and beyond. This is not the Art Pepper of his early period. Cables performs a dissonant sideways glance off Mraz's expert timekeeping. Pepper will employ this paradigm throughout his residency, playing with bass and drums as an expanded introduction after the head with Cables coming back just in time to sweep the ensemble together for Mraz to solo and carry the band into the coda, performing with a confidence lacking in the introduction.

Pepper had written several songs specifically for the Vanguard appearances in addition to "Blues for Heard." "My Friend John" was written for Snyder, the facilitator of East Coast tour. Pepper favors lengthy and complex heads, composing one here. The piece lives between hard bop and post bop. Pepper slips casually into Coltrane's "sheets of sound" without surrendering to them. Jones's drums brims with the polyrhythms he provided Coltrane a decade earlier. "For Freddie" is a slick bebop blues that will remain in the Pepper catalog through the Maiden Voyage performances five years later. "Live At The Vanguard" is a spacious rhumba carriage designed for all of the soloists to have plenty of time to work out their ideas.

"Blues For Les" pays tribute to Koenig who was present to record these performances. It is an elegant slow blues that develops slowly and simmers, never reaching a full boil (by design). "Vanguard Max" is named for the venue's famous manager, Max Gordon, and is an almost Baroque piece masquerading as a jump blues. Pepper's performances tighten up as the residency progresses but never loses the anxious energy and anticipation he brought with him in his assault on the East Coast.

There are many highlights among these 41 selections. Pepper was a consummate ballad player, his talent deepening during this comeback period. His mainstays are all here. The Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke "But Beautiful" was a common vehicle for Pepper throughout his career and Pepper is nervously plaintive in his delivery. "Over The Rainbow" is presented as a solo exposition, as Pepper liked to play it live. Pepper uses the familiar melody to work out his emotional ideas and is some of his most self-aware, naked playing, where he leaves it all on the stage. "You Go To My Head" is seductive, those pretty words one says to a would-be lover. Pepper converses over Mraz's light support until reaching the threshold temperature where the song magically picks up, ebbs, and flows as an exposition of sated seduction and acknowledgment. "Stella By Starlight," "These Foolish Things," and "Goodbye" all find Pepper in his element.

Pepper punctuated his stay at the Village Vanguard with two bebop anthems. Performed only once during the three days was Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's "Anthropology." Pepper recorded this song on clarinet for his seminal 1959 Contemporary album Art Pepper + Eleven—Modern Jazz Classics. He reprised the performance at the Vanguard with a thrilling introductory duet with Mraz that seemed to suspend time in the opening bridge before reappearing as the well-known standard. Two choruses of pure jazz magic followed by a two-chorus Cables warmup before Jones enters with the fire. All the time, Pepper plays that most persnickety of instruments at a level well above his peers. This is the leader's night to blow and go.

Cables follows with a handful of solo choruses building on one another. Jones keeps time as his presence increases in volume and content. Out of almost nowhere comes Pepper on tenor, trading eights with Jones. This is a special night, to be sure, and a special performance. The band closes as they opened, Pepper on clarinet. The second anthem is the last of three performances of Ray Noble's 1938 composition "Cherokee" and its lengthiest treatment in the set. The song has long been the proving ground for jazz and specifically bebop devotees. Pepper explores chorus after chorus before stepping back for Cables to sing. Mraz solos arco while Jones slays the eights. All four men are at the top of their talent, killing one of the most difficult standards in the book.

The Village Vanguard Sessions is not about being the best Art Pepper on record. It is a testament, a conduit between exile and exaltation. At the time, Pepper was the chrysalis emerging from his marginalization into a spotlight much deserved and a long time coming. In terms of his comeback, this was only the beginning.

Key Selection: "Anthropology."

Art Pepper
The Complete Galaxy Recordings
Galaxy Records

Few recording artists rate having a 16-CD box set assembled and released. It is an expensive undertaking for a recording company and not without risk. Art Pepper spent the end of his career with Galaxy. The label was founded in 1964 by the brothers Max and Sol Weiss as a rhythm and blues imprint for Fantasy Records in Berkeley, California. Three years later both Galaxy and Fantasy were sold and the label fell into disuse for a decade, returning as a jazz label to record such jazz names as Chet Baker, Stanley Cowell, Nat Adderley, Tommy Flanagan, Red Garland, Johnny Griffin, Roy Haynes, Hank Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Shelly Manne, Ira Sullivan and ... Art Pepper.

Between the recording of Art Pepper Today in 1978 and the duet performances with George Cables, Tête-à-Tête and Goin' Home in 1982, one month before his death, the alto saxophonist released 18 LPs (17 LPs are detailed in the original box set release. In 1991, Arthur's Blues was released, collecting five previously unreleased songs). Released in 1989, The Complete Galaxy Recordings would serve as Pepper's defining oeuvre.

The Complete Galaxy Recordings has a rather complex assembly. Eight studio LPs bear the original Galaxy imprint, two were the Pepper-led quartet recordings Art Pepper Today and Straight Life, two were multi-artist collections to which Pepper contributed, Ballads By Four (Pepper providing "Over The Rainbow") and 5 Birds And A Monk (Pepper providing "Yardbird Suite"), both contributions being recorded in the sessions resulting in Art Pepper Today. Additionally, two recordings resulted from his "with strings" sessions, Winter Moon and One September Afternoon. The final two Galaxy imprinted records were Pepper's and Cables's noted duet recordings Goin' Home and Tête-à-Tête.

The live recordings included in the box set had two sources: Landscape (released on Galaxy) and Besame Mucho (released on the Japanese Victor label) both recorded at the Shiba Yubin Chokin Hall in Tokyo on July 16, 1979, and July 23, 1979, respectively. The second source was the recordings from Pepper's Maiden Voyage performances made on August 13-15, 1981, that resulted in Roadgame, Art Lives, APQ, and Arthur's Blues (collected and released after this box set). A discussion of the Maiden Voyage recordings follows in a section below.

The final four recordings in this box set resulted from a promise Pepper had made to Snyder, his benefactor for the 1977 East Coast tour and owner of Artists House Records. In return for Snyder's generosity, Pepper promised to record for Artists House. These will also be discussed in a later section.

Art Pepper's Galaxy output presents the artist at his most settled and expressive. He wrote new music, like "Mambo Koyama," "Our Song," and Pepper's finest composition, "Make A List." But, he also looked backward, rerecording his early-period compositions, "Pepper Pot" (From The Art Pepper Quartet [Tampa, 1956]), "Straight Life" (from Surf Ride [Savoy, 1957]), and "Patricia" (from The Return Of Art Pepper [Jazz: West, 1957]) the latter a dedication to his daughter.

Pepper's playing retained the influence of Coltrane, most often manifesting in live performance. Traces of his Desmond-inspired dry-ice tone also remained. What Pepper settled into was his original sound, frayed at the edges with the capacity to go full-blown nuclear, raining every emotion presently passing through the artist as he played. More than any other alto saxophonist, Pepper was able to assimilate the styles of many of his contemporaries while remaining distinctively himself. While no innovator, Pepper was a unique voice with a distinctive story.

Key Selection: "Make A List."

While the original "Make A List" from 1979's Straight Life is exceptional, the way to hear it definitively performed is on Unreleased Art, Vol. III: The Croydon Concert, May 14, 1981 (Omnivore Recordings, 2022).

Art Pepper
The Hollywood All-Star Sessions
Galaxy Records

It has taken three separate releases of this material for Laurie Pepper, Art's widow, to 'fess up and claim responsibility for the idea behind the Hollywood Recordings. When Art Pepper signed with Galaxy Records, he agreed to an exclusive contract where he could not record for any other labels as a leader. However, he would be able to appear as a sideman on other labels' recording dates. After having toured Japan in 1979, where he received adulation, Pepper was approached by representatives of the Japanese record label Yupiteru (later Atlas) to make some recordings for them.

The Yupiteru representatives wanted 1950s-style West Coast jazz performed by '50s-vintage West Coast jazz musicians. The label even had a list of names, as well as a list of classic '50s songs. This was all too good to be true...indeed, because of Pepper's exclusive agreement with Galaxy. Laurie Pepper reasoned that Art could record as a sideman (in name only) while acting as the de facto leader on the dates and not violate his Galaxy contract. And that is how the Atlas recordings came to be.

Laurie also reasoned that the ruse of Art being a sideman played a positive psychological role in Pepper's preparation and performance. As a leader, Pepper was always completely invested, taking seriously his responsibility for the dates, musicians, and the material. In other words, anxious and stressed out. As a sideman, Pepper could relax and enjoy himself (as much as he ever could). And this is how it sounds on these recordings. This was a pretty sweet deal with the results speaking for themselves. Seven LPs resulted (in the order of release with commentary):

Bill Watrous Quintet-Funk'n Fun (Atlas Records (J), 1979). Trombonist Bill Watrous was about 10 years younger than his West Coast contemporaries, not really of the age to have contributed to '50s LA jazz. But he was on the label's "list" and here he is. Pepper was often deeply influenced by whom he performed with. This Watrous date was no exception. Pepper plays freer and more cheerfully than on many dates where he was the noted leader. "Just Friends" gives the musicians a happy vehicle over which to solo. Included here is Pepper's rarely performed "Funny Blues" from The Return Of Art Pepper. It is an enjoyable throwback for both Pepper and Watrous to display their blues chops. It also shows how indispensable bassist Bob Magnusson was.

Jack Sheldon And His West Coast Friends-Angel Wings (Atlas Records (J), 1980). Jack Sheldon was a multifaceted character who professionally went way back with Pepper, the two appearing together on The Return Of Art Pepper; Jack Sheldon Arrives (GNP, 1957), Art Pepper + Eleven (Contemporary, 1959), and Dave Pell-The Big Small Bands (Capitol, 1960), among others. The two men admired each another, a feeling abundantly evident in this recording in the one-two ballad punch of "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise" and "The Way You Look Tonight." The two turn things up on "Broadway." The real treat on this recording is the inclusion of a discovered cassette of the session where Sheldon sings "Historia de un Amor" in Spanish.

Pete Jolly And His West Coast Friends-Strike Up The Band (Atlas Records (J), 1980). Pianist Pete Jolly first recorded with Pepper in 1956 on what would become The Route (Pacific Jazz). Jolly would also show up on Smack Up! ( Contemporary, 1962). Jolly was a reliable bebop-West Coast pianist who would leave jazz to work in television and movie soundtracks. This is the most urbane and relaxed session of all of the releases. "You Go To My Head" and "Everything Happens To Me" headline the ballads while three takes of Pepper's "Y.I. Blues" (written for producer Yasuyuki Ishihara) temper the already obvious quality of Pepper's original compositions.

Sonny Stitt And His West Coast Friends-Groovin' High (Atlas Records (J), 1980). Pepper recorded four days with alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. The first two days were devoted the the bebop songbook. Much has been made of Pepper's lack of comfort with the material, but he is fit as a fiddle on "Scrapple From The Apple" where he sounds like late-period Art Pepper. Laurie Pepper alerts the listener in the notes on how to identify the two alto saxophonists: Stitt is the one who sounds like Parker and Pepper is the one who does not. The session draws much from Art Pepper + Eleven, "Walkin,'" "Groovin' High," and "Bernie's Tune" all representing that album. Lou Levy discharges the piano duties admirably as does Chuck Domanico on bass.

Sonny Stitt And His West Coast Friends-Atlas Blues -"Blow! And Ballade" (Atlas Records (J), 1980). The second two-day session replaces Levy with Pepper stalwart Russ Freeman and Domanico with Heard ("Blues for Heard"). These sessions were more relaxed and amiable than the bebop sessions. "Atlas Blues" and "Lester Leaps In" (with both men playing tenor saxophone) offer the best examples of the competitive nature of both Pepper and Stitt. These songs swing hard. "My Funny Valentine," "Lover Man," and "Imagination" provide the ballad material for the sessions with both men playing beautifully.

Shelly Manne And His Hollywood All Stars-Hollywood Jam (Atlas Records (J), 1981). This was the only date where Pepper was not the de-facto leader because any date Shelly Manne performed on was his date. Rather than a quartet or quintet date as the other sessions had been, this one used a sextet with three of the members (Manne, Pepper, and tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper) other been Stan Kenton alumni. Jolly was back on piano and Watrous on trombone. The new face on the date was bassist Monty Budwig. This session is introduced with the John Klenner/Sam Lewis 1931 composition "Just Friends." The head is presented as a Dixieland breakdown with Jolly setting a brisk pace for Pepper, Watrous and Cooper slipping in, around, and over one another with each insinuating the melody in a most modern NOLA manner. The disc's highlight is the classic blues original "Hollywood Jam Blues." Jolly pulls out all of the stops bringing this blues to church. Budwig moves Jolly along, but not too fast. The pair are setting the stage for the three principal soloists.

Lee Konitz And His West Coast Friends-High Jingo ((Atlas Records (J), 1982). This is perhaps the finest volume of the bunch. Lee Konitz, a member of Miles Davis' famous 1949 Nonet, came from a background of study with Lennie Tristano, as had Warne Marsh with whom Pepper had also recorded. Konitz was a very different alto saxophonist from Stitt, offering an interesting comparison of their styles and interactions with Pepper. Pepper reprises bassist Paul Chambers' "Whims of Chambers" from his 1957 Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section here to great effect.

In 2001, Galaxy Records released the Atlas recordings as a 5-CD box set, Art Pepper-The Hollywood All-Star Sessions. Several of the recordings included previously unreleased material, but not all of the unreleased material. In the early 2010s, Laurie Pepper and her Widow's Taste Record Label struck up a deal with Grammy Award-winning producer and Omnivore label-founder Cheryl Pawelski, to shepherd what was becoming an unmanageable re-release program. The two women synergistically brought order to Pepper's catalog. Part of their effort resulted in the Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions Volumes 1-6. These recordings now include all of the material from the sessions that were able to be located, bringing this segment of the Art Pepper discography to a satisfactory developmental coda. The Omnivore releases represent the definitive testament of Art Pepper's Atlas label recordings.

Key Selection: "Lester Leaps In."

Art Pepper
Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings
Omnivore Recordings

It was in early 1977 when Contemporary president Lester Koenig introduced Art and Laurie Pepper to John Snyder, then the creative director of Horizon Records, A&M Records' jazz imprint. A man of certain means, Snyder wondered why Pepper was not touring and he went on to enable Pepper's tour of the East Coast. The tour began with Pepper appearing for a week in Toronto followed by an exceptional concert experience at New York City's Village Vanguard. These dates were played with pickup bands as was the typical course of events.

Snyder approached Koenig asking him to allow Pepper to return to the Village Vanguard, this time recording the performances. Snyder wanted to direct the recording. Koenig agreed that it would be a good idea to have Pepper return to the Vanguard to record with a hand-picked band, but it was Koenig who would direct the recording for Contemporary.

Snyder was disappointed, but Art and Laurie Pepper promised him that Pepper would record a single album for Snyder's new label Artists House. In the meantime, Lester Koenig died suddenly and Pepper's Contemporary contract came to an end. When Pepper signed with Fantasy Records' Galaxy Imprint, the saxophonist stipulated that he be allowed to record one album for Artists House. Pepper ended up providing enough material for four albums. The material was recorded during two sessions. The first was held at the Sound Ideas in New York City ("New York Sessions") on February 23, 1979, with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Al Foster. The second took place at the Fantasy Studios on May 25-26, 1979, with Cables, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins ("LA Sessions").

The "New York Sessions" were challenging for Pepper. He was playing with well-established East Coast masters whom he believed did not take him seriously. According to Laurie Pepper, the saxophonist suffered from "an elitist-black-New-Yorker-jazzer attitude toward him." A single listen to these two sessions and one can believe that the East Coast rhythm section called in their contributions from a pay phone while Pepper played his heart out. Pepper was always competitive and loved to be challenged, and he was in his New York Session, but his bandmates refused to meet his enthusiasm halfway. Pepper was meeting a challenge while his rhythm section was collecting their checks.

Pepper's experience with his LA rhythm section was much more amiable and conducive to some inspired blowing. Pepper already had experience playing with Cables, whom he called his "Mr. Beautiful," Haden had a Midwestern sensibility that made him easy to get along with. Higgins was a monolith to the jazz community., but one of exceptional modesty These sessions went much better, providing better-balanced performances. These four recordings are included in the 16-CD Box Set The Complete Galaxy Recordings sans the exhaustive inclusion of all available alternate takes found in this box set. In order of release with commentary:

So In Love (Artists House, 1980). This album is the single contract-allowed recording for Snyder's Artists House label. The original album contained five selections, released here with three bonus cuts. Four of these selections derive from the New York Sessions: two takes of Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," Pepper's 1956 original composition "Diane," and "Yesterdays." The remaining pieces, "Blues For Blanche," "So In Love," the infrequently performed "Stardust," and the Pepper original "Landscape, were recorded at the LA Sessions. "Stardust" is a standout because Pepper rarely performed the ballad, which he does beautifully here. Also, Pepper's resurrected "Diane," dedicated to his second wife, is a treat, performed slowly as Pepper preferred for his ballads.

Artworks (Galaxy, 1984). Released posthumously, Artworks contains six selections from the original release plus an additional five all recorded by the LA rhythm section. The two takes of "Anthropology" with Pepper playing clarinet in a trio format with Haden and Higgins, are enough to fuel a wish that Pepper had recorded more in the pianoless trio format. Where the bebop anthem "Anthropology" is all shiny surfaces, another, "Donna Lee" (also present with a bonus alternate) is all frantic jagged edges, hurried, even rushed. The two performances of "You Go To My Head" provide just the ballad touch to the release.

New York Album (Galaxy, 1985). This recording exclusively contains selections recorded with the New York rhythm section. It contains five selections from the original recording, supplemented by an additional five bonus cuts. Bebop saturates the recording with two performances each of "Night In Tunisia," "Lover Man," and "Straight, No Chaser." The two takes of "My Friend John" written for Snyder and debuted during the 1977 Village Vanguard residency, stand out even with the questionable support from the rhythm section.

Stardust (Victor [J], 1985). This album was originally released only in Japan, where Pepper always enjoyed great popularity. All songs were performed with the LA rhythm section, save for two divine solo clarinet performances of "Art's Sweet Blues" and "But Beautiful." "Tin Tin Deo" is a treat brought back from Pepper's 1957 release Meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary). Two additional takes of "My Friend John" are included, providing a full picture of Pepper's compositional prowess. A fifth disc contains the remaining extant material from these recording sessions, rounding out this box set with all available material—a completist's dream. Laurie Pepper and Cheryl Pawelski have curated this set admirably.

Key Selection "But Beautiful" solo alto performance

Art Pepper
The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings
Omnivore Recordings

Laurie Pepper had advocated for a complete set of Pepper's Maiden Voyage performances to be collected and released. In 2017 Craft Recordings (an imprint of Concord Records) released a digital-only version with 21 of the 42 songs performed over those three days in Fall 1981. However, Ms. Pepper wanted more. According to Laurie Pepper's liner notes, she strong-armed Pawleski into not only re-releasing the extant music but including all of the previously unreleased material from the residency. This amounts to an additional 23 unheard performances and all of the between-song commentary by Pepper. This is as close as one gets to having been there.

Maiden Voyage was a Japanese-owned jazz club located at 2424 Wilshire Blvd. across the street from MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. The club was in operation from 1979 to 1983. In August 1981, Pepper, with pianist Cables, bassist David Williams, and drummer Carl Burnett, played seven sets over three consecutive nights. Pepper's producer from Galaxy Records, Ed Michel, was there and captured every moment played. Michel asked Pepper to listen to a playback of the entire residency and provide notes for each performance to help aid in what material would be released on LP. Pepper quipped that Michel wanted this of him because he, Michel, did not expect Pepper to live that long. Sadly, that was the case, Pepper died from a cerebral hemorrhage on June 15, 1982, ten months after these performances were recorded and before any were released.

Pepper's Maiden Voyage Performances were among the most relaxed that the alto saxophonist made as a leader. Professionally, he was meeting his goals, among them the "with strings" recording, Winter Moon (Galaxy, 1979), and a duet set with Cables, that resulted in Goin' Home (Galaxy, 1982) and Tête-à-Tête (Galaxy, 1983), both recorded after the Maiden Voyage residency. He was comfortable with his band, who shared a solid synergy with their leader. This empathic quartet had risen to the necessary technical accomplishment that Pepper deserved to have and so often wanted. He had achieved the attention and acclaim he desired and deserved. When Pepper and his quartet came to the Maiden Voyage, they were ready to play.

These performances can be framed in terms of ballads, blues and original compositions, each overlapping the other. Pepper was a master ballad interpreter. Much has been made of his singular performances of the 1940 Adair/Dennis pop standard "Everything Happens To Me." These are exceptional performances of a ballad that had been in Pepper's book since the beginning. He performs the piece plaintively as if acknowledging a life both difficult but finally fulfilling. It is haunting. Another ballad close to Pepper was the Van Heusen/Burke composition "But Beautiful." Pepper performed this ballad multiple times while at Maiden Voyage, each time very slowly divining from its flat and linear melody those diamonds that exist in well-composed songs. "While "Everything Happens To Me" is a wink at his past, "But Beautiful" is the statement of who Art Pepper was as an artist.

The blues songs included in the Maiden Voyage performances demonstrate that Pepper had a blues sensibility equal to that of Parker or Hodges. What is entitled "Thank You Blues" on this box release was incorrectly labeled as "For Freddie" on the original LP release of Art Lives. It was corrected to "Thank You Blues" despite its dead-on resemblance to "Arthur's Blues." A blues is a blues and the performer can name it as they wish. If a post-New Orleans jazz blues can be termed "gutbucket" these two performances are that. Stripped of any jazz artifice, one could easily imagine B.B. King performing the same type of song in the early '70s. The two blues each feature Pepper, Cables, and Williams soloing with as much space as they desire. All are inspired and the performances are exemplary.

Finally, there are Pepper's original compositions. "Road Waltz," a 3/4 minor blues, is a highlight each time it is performed, having been composed for this residency. It features one of those complex and serpentine Pepper melodies that characterize all of his songs. "Roadgame" was also saved specifically for these shows and is a strolling blues with a jaunt in its step. "Landscape" was originally recorded during the sessions producing Artworks (Galaxy, 1979) and So In Love (Galaxy, 1980). It served as a very productive vehicle for soloing as a fast clip. Pepper sounds as if he enjoys playing this. Finally, Pepper loved songs that could devolve into two-chord expositions of virtuosity. His finest composition, "Make A List," from Straight Life (Galaxy, 1979) is of this construction, but was unfortunately not performed at Maiden Voyage. However, "Mamba Koyama," which was originally released on Art Pepper Today (Galaxy, 1979) fit the bill for the workout song of the set. Williams sets the groove and Pepper and Cables solo extensively. Funky and fecund, this was a showstopper.

It is fitting that Art Pepper's late and most productive period enjoyed this degree of documentation. Marginalized during the majority of his haphazard career, Pepper rose above the resistance to be recognized as a true jazz original.

Key Selection: "Arthur's Blues."

Related Discographies

The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions

Art Pepper-Thursday Night At The Village Vanquard (Contemporary LP 7643, 1977)
Art Pepper-Friday Night At The Village Vanquard (Contemporary LP 7643, 1977)
Art Pepper-Saturday Night At The Village Vanquard (Contemporary LP 7644, 1977)
Art Pepper-More For Les At The Village Vanguard (Contemporary LP 7650, 1977)
Art Pepper-Live At The Village Vanguard (Contemporary (J) GXH-3009/10/11, LP 7642, 1980)
Art Pepper-The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions (Contemporary 9CCD-4417-2, 1995)

Art Pepper-The Complete Galaxy Recordings

Art Pepper Today (Galaxy GXY-5119, 1979)
Straight Life (Galaxy GXY-5127, 1979)
Landscape (Galaxy GXY-5128, 1979)
Ballads By Four (Galaxy GXY-5133, 1979)
Five Birds And A Monk (Galaxy GXY-5134, 1979)
Winter Moon (Galaxy GXY-5140, 1979)
One September Afternoon (Galaxy GXY-5141, 1980)
Road Game (Galaxy GXY-5142, 1979)
Goin' Home (Galaxy GXY-5143, 1982)
Art Lives (Galaxy GXY-5145, 1983)
Tête-à-Tête (Galaxy GXY-5147, 1983)
Artworks (Galaxy GXY-5148, 1984)
APQ (Galaxy GXY-5151, 1984)
Arthur's Blues (Galaxy OJCCD-680-2, 1991)—released after this box set release
New York Album (Galaxy GXY-5144, 1985)
So In Love (Artist House AH-9412, 1980)
Besame Mucho (JVC VIJ-6372, 1981)
Stardust (JVC VIJ-6442, 1985)
The Complete Galaxy Recordings (Galaxy, 1989)

The Hollywood All-Star Sessions

Funk 'N Fun: Bill Watrous And His West Coast Friends (Atlas YJ25-7024, 1979)
Angel Wings: Jack Sheldon And His West Coast Friends Atlas LA27-1001, 1980)
Strike Up The Band: Pete Jolly And His West Coast Friends (Atlas LA27-1003, 1980)
Groovin' High: Sonny Stitt And His West Coast Friends (Atlas LA27-1004, 1980)
Atlas Blues, Blow! & Ballade: Sonny Stitt And His West Coast Friends (Atlas LA27-1007, 1980)
Hollywood Jam: Shelly Manne And His Hollywood All Stars (Atlas LA27-1012, 1981)
High Jingo: Lee Konitz And His West Coast Friends (Atlas LA27-1016, 1982)
Art Pepper-The Hollywood All-Star Sessions (Galaxy 5GCD-4431-2, 2001)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 1: Sonny Stitt (Omnivore Recordings OV-207, 2017)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 2: Pete Jolly (Omnivore Recordings OV-208, 2017)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 3: Lee Konitz (Omnivore Recordings OV-224, 2017)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 4: Bill Watrous (Omnivore Recordings OV-225, 2017)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 5: Jack Sheldon (Omnivore Recordings OV-236, 2017)
Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" Volume 6: Shelly Manne (Omnivore Recordings OV-237, 2017)

Art Pepper-Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings

Art Pepper-So In Love (Artist House AH-9412, 1980)
Art Pepper-Artworks (Galaxy GXY-5148, 1984)
Art Pepper-New York Album (Galaxy GXY-5144, 1985)
Art Pepper-Stardust (JVC VIJ-6442, 1985)
Art Pepper-So In Love (Omnivore Recordings OV-458, 2023)
Art Pepper-Artworks (Omnivore Recordings OV-459, 2023)
Art Pepper-New York Album (Omnivore Recordings OV-460, 2023)
Art Pepper-Stardust (Omnivore Recordings OV-461, 2023)
Art Pepper-Artist House Sessions: Complete (Widow's Taste, 2016)
Art Pepper-Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings (Omnivore Recordings, 2019)

The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings

Art Pepper-Roadgame (Galaxy LP 5142, 1982)
Art Pepper-Art Lives (Galaxy LP 5145, 1983)
Art Pepper-APQ (Galaxy LP 5151, 1984)
Art Pepper-Arthur's Blues (Galaxy LP 5145, 1991)
Art Pepper-The Complete Galaxy Recordings (Galaxy 16GCD 1016-2, 1989)
Art Pepper-The Complete Maiden Voyage Concerts (Craft Recordings, 2017)
Art Pepper-The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings (Omnivore Recordings, 2023)



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