In her liner notes to Volume IV of the Art History Project, Art Pepper's widow describes him as a self-hating, alcoholic sex addict who turned to heroin in order to suppress these tendencies. Second only to Charlie Parker in the DownBeat polls of the day, nobody played alto saxophone as smooth and cool as Art Pepper. Unreleased Art, a three-disc set comprised of two-thirds never-before released material, traces Pepper's life in music from his golden era in the '50s through his prison- interrupted discovery of John Coltrane in the '60s, and concludes with his final period, fresh out of rehab in the '70s and playing as if his life depended on it.
This was Pepper's reality, and the music on Disc Three, subtitled Consummate Art, is haunting, driving, drawn out and never stops swinging. It's this period that defines Pepper as a true artist, 20 years and a lifetime beyond the handsome and impossibly talented natural in place at the start of his career. An authoritative blues closes this set, but it's "Lost Life," an achingly beautiful but harrowing ballad that represents Pepper's raison d'être.
Pepper was such a masterful balladeer it made his transition to a Trane-inspired improviserfreer, wilder and angrieras shocking as Bob Dylan going electric at Newport. Disc Two's Hard Art includes "So in Love," a standard that earns a lengthy interpretation, and "That Crazy Blues" and "Section D," two cuts that reach intense, squealing heights that mark Pepper's great leap forward.
Not that Pepper's '50s music is lacking. Done in the West Coast style, Disc One's Pure Art (Schrimer, 1979) features in-the-pocket drumming and lead horns darting around the piano-dominated rhythm. "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Begin the Beguine" are effortlessly cool and tenor man Warne Marsh is brought in for a bouncy "I Can't Believe that You're in Love with Me" and a deconstruction of "What's New."
Laurie Pepper calls Unreleased Art Volume IV a companion piece to Straight Life, her collaborative biography of her husband. As aural autobiography, these three discs trace the evolution of a jazz genius who lived one hell of a life and who was never more profound and masterful than at the end.
CD1: Art Pepper; Fascinatin' Rhythm; Patricia; Tickle Toe; Pepper Returns; Mambo de La Pinta; These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); Cool Bunny; Besame Mucho; Art's Oregano; Diane; I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me; Straight Life; Everything Happens to Me; Nutmeg; What's New?; Begin the Beguine; CD2: Rehearsal; Track 2; So in Love; Talk; That Crazy Blues; D Section; Chelsea Bridge; CD3: Caravan; Lost Life; Landscape; Angel Wings; Historia de un Amor; Mambo Koyama; That's Love.
Art Pepper: alto saxophone; Carl Perkins: piano (CD1); Ben Tucker: bass (CD1); Chuck Flores: drums (CD1); Jack Sheldon: trumpet (CD1); Russ Freeman: piano (CD1); Leory Vinegar: bass (CD1); Shelly Mann: drums (CD1); Bob Whitlock: bass (CD1); Bobby White: drums (CD1); Hampton Hawes: piano (CD1); Joe Mondragon: bass (CD1); Larry Bunker:
drums (CD1); Gary Frommer: drums (CD1); Warne Marsh: tenor saxophone (CD1); Ronnie
Bell: piano (CD1); Jack Montrose: tenor saxophone (CD1); Claude Williamson: piano (CD1);
Monty Budwig: bass (CD1); Stan Kenton Innovative Orchestra (CD1); Frank Strazzeri: piano
(CD2); Hersh Hammel: bass (CD2); Bill Goodwin: drums (CD2); Charles Owens: alto
saxophone (CD2), flute (CD2), clarinet (CD2); Don Menza: tenor saxophone (CD2), flute
(CD2); Pat LaBarbera: tenor saxophone (CD2), flute (CD2); John Laws: baritone saxophone
(CD2), bass clarinet (CD2); Al Porcino: trumpet (CD2); Bill Prince: trumpet (CD2); Ken Faulk:
trumpet (CD2); Dave Culp: trumpet (CD2); Jim Trimble: trombone (CD2); Rick Stepton:
trombone (CD2); Peter Graves: trombone (CD2); Walt Namuth: guitar (CD2); Joe Azarello:
piano (CD2); Gary Walters: bass (CD2); Buddy Rich: drums (CD2); Milcho Leviev: piano
(CD3); Bob Magnuson: bass (CD3); Carl Burnett: drums (CD3); Smith Dobson: piano (CD3);
Jim Nichols: bass (CD3); Brad Bihorn: drums (CD3); Stanley Cowell: piano (CD3); George
Mraz: bass (CD3); Ben Riley: drums (CD3); Jack Sheldon: trumpet (CD3); Russ Freeman:
piano (CD3); Bob Magnusson: bass (CD3); Carl Burnett: drums (CD3).
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