Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Art Pepper - The Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII (Widow's Taste, 2012)

Alto saxophonist Art Pepper was a highly regarded musician whose career lasted from the mid-1940's to the early 1980's. Substance abuse dogged Pepper throughout his career, but each time he lost his freedom, he managed to stage a comeback (read more in Pepper's fascinating biography, Straight Life." This archival album is the seventh in the series curated by Pepper's late wife Laurie. Mastered from an audience cassette tape, the performance from Osaka in November of 1980 doesn't have the best sound quality, but the performance quality is quite good. Pepper plays alto saxophone and clarinet, accompanied by George Cables on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Carl Burnett on drums. The two disc set consists of Pepper compositions along with some standards. Opening with "Landscape" and "Ophelia," two Pepper compositions, which move through a series of musical moods and patterns, warming the band up while still staying pleasant and interesting. Things really pickup with the chestnut "Cherokee" with Pepper launching into a vivid improvisation before circling back to the familiar melody. George Cables is featured on his own composition "Quiet Fire" before the band comes back together for a blistering version of "Straight Life" that is cut short when the tape runs out. After opening the second set with the swinging "Y.I. Blues," Pepper switches to clarinet to clarinet on "Avalon" showing a different perspective of his musicality. They blast through "Make a Wish" with crowd pleasing bravado before changing gears into the ballad "Winter Moon," which Pepper had recently recorded with a string orchestra. They leave the crowd wanting more with a very exciting version of the bebop standard "Donna Lee" which includes a round of excellent solos. This was a well done archival release, and there were some very nice photographs and well written liner notes included. Pepper fans will no doubt be excited to hear him playing with an excellent and supportive band on this album. Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. VII - amazon.com

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