Sunday, June 12, 2011

Art Pepper - Blues for the Fisherman Sampler (Widow's Taste, 2011)

This is a one disc sampler of a planned four compact disc set of alto saxophonist Art Pepper's run at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London during 1980. There were a couple of LP's released of this material on Mole Records, but due to contractual obligations, Pepper could not be noted as the leader of the ensemble. This sampler from the material sets the matter straight, giving credit to Art Pepper's band with Milcho Leviev on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Carl Burnett on drums. The music shows the main man in top late-period form, swinging hard before a live London audience, developing a deep and hard tone that is rooted in bebop, but showing the influences of tenor saxophonists like Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane. The liner notes state that Pepper was extremely nervous during the engagement, but it doesn't come through on the music, which is uniformly excellent. Opening with "Blues for Blanche" (dedicated to his cat!) Pepper and the band are off and running at a strong and agile pace. The band is totally integrated into the music and seemingly have a telepathic notion of when to jump in and lay out. Thelonious Monk's "Ryhthm-a-Ning" is another riveting highlight of the the album, with the band making the most of the opportunities presented by Monk's knotty composition. "I'll Remember April" investigates Pepper's bebop roots with a fast paced improvisation, and the finale "Blues for the Fisherman" is an excellent blowing tune, where everyone gets a turn and then Pepper ends things by thanking the enthusiastic audience. The music on this disc was extremely worthwhile and Laurie Pepper's liner notes make for fascinating reading. The boxed set will be available on June 14, it is unknown whether the sampler will be sold separately. For more information, e-mail Widow's Taste.

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