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Art Pepper: Smack Up

C. Michael Bailey By

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Art Pepper produced the greatest recordings of the so-called "first phase" of his career during periods of intense chaos. A case in point is Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, where the altoist—rusty from inactivity, angry because of the surprise recording session set up by his then-wife Diane, and very, very strung out—expelled an acknowledged masterpiece. The aptly named Smack Up was the penultimate recording to the better part of a decade of incarceration for the musician's well-known heroin addiction.

In the company of West Coast stalwarts Jack Sheldon and Pete Jolly, Pepper swings through what even by today's standards is an interesting set of music. There is Harold Land's title cut, Pepper's own 5/4 "Las Cuevas De Mario" (a song he would perform throughout his life), Buddy Collette's swinging "A Bit of Basie" and Benny Carter's soulful "How Can You Lose." Of keen interest is Pepper's take on Ornette Coleman's "Tears Inside," which showed the rather traditional Pepper had no fear of "The New Thing."

The sound is an improvement on the original release, even on the previously excluded "Solid Citizens." This is an important recording that definitely warranted re-release with remastering.

Track Listing: Smack Up; Las Cuevas De Mario; A Bit Of Basie; How Can You Lose; Maybe Next Year; Tears Inside; Solid Citizens (Take 33) Solid Citizens (Take 33).

Personnel: Art Pepper

Title: Smack Up | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Contemporary

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