Three Glorious Reviews for the 8th in the "Unreleased Art" series
And here are the reviews!
Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII - Live At The Winery, September 6, 1976
C. MICHAEL BAILEY,
Published: October 28, 2013
Art Pepper: Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII - Live At The Winery, September 6, 1976Laurie Pepper, widow of alto saxophonist Art Pepper, has been shepherding the artist's discography since the turn of the millenia.Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live At The Winery, September 6, 1976reveals there may be no end in sight for unreleased material from this important jazz musician. Ms. Pepper has done a couple of things different this time. One, she is releasing a performance by Pepper early in his comeback, after the release of Living Legend(Contemporary, 1975), Pepper's first recording since 1960'sIntensity (Contemporary) and before his triumphant appearance at New York City's Village Vanguard, documented on The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions(Contemporary, 1977). (Note: Pepper is captured on a handful of live recordings during those 15 years, but these were largely bootlegs that made their way to vinyl and then CD.)
Second, she releases a performance where Pepper plays with "alternate" sidemen, artists not associated with Pepper at the height of his comeback (like pianists George Cables andMilcho Leviev, bassists Tony Dumas and Bob Magnusson and drummers Billy Higgins andCarl Burnette). The music recorded here is somewhat of a "missing link" and is, indeed, revelatory, almost in the biblical sense. Pepper had been working as an accountant in the bakery of a fellow Synanon veteran when he emerged to play "casuals" (weddings and Bar Mitzvahs) and, eventually to begin recording again.
Fifteen years is a long time between records. It may be the myopic view of the past considering recordings like Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary, 1957) and Art Pepper + Eleven: The Modern Jazz Classics (Contemporary, 1959). These were game-changing recordings made under the most challenging circumstances.
There is nothing Romantic about chemical dependency or its consequences. It does not enhance creativity; it exists as an impediment to all that could be. Nor should one believe the artist is not changed by the experience: not Charlie Parker, not Frank Morgan, not Art Pepper. The Art Pepper here in the Bicentennial is dramatically different from that of these previous recordings. His tone is harsher and more dry and he still shows the remnants of John Coltrane, who captured his imagination in the 1960s. But, Pepper in the mid-1970s was no developing artist unfinished; he was fully realized and in nuclear transition. He is the musical sum of all he has done and all he has seen.
In 1979, Art and Laurie Pepper published perhaps the finest jazz biography written, Straight Life: the Story of Art Pepper (Da Capo Press). It provides a roadmap and discography where Pepper's work can be conveniently identified and considered in context. According to Pepper's discography atJazzdisco.org, the altoist's appearance at the Paul Masson Winery, September 6, 1976 took place between his recording as a sideman on Art Farmer: On The Road (Contemporary, 1976) and Pepper's own follow-up to Living Legand, The Trip (Contemporary, 1976). Pepper was getting serious traction just ahead of his first tour of Japan early in 1977. He had been teaching jazz clinics and playing casuals, getting ready for the rest of his productive but too-short life.
Live At The Winery, September 6, 1976 is made up of six songs inner-dispersed with Pepper's grateful and sincere stage banter. The disc opens with possibly Pepper's most passionate reading of the Juan Tizol classic "Caravan." Written for the Duke Ellington orchestra, "Caravan" was composed with a Middle Eastern flavor in mind, but in the hands of Pepper and local pianist Smith Dobson, it is a samba bullet shot from a Latin jazz gun. Pepper gives a long introduction before steering into the familiar theme, fighting a guerrilla war for the next ten minutes of exhilarating performance.
Pepper follows with an angular original composition, "Ophelia" from Living Legend, that would show up many more times in his live performances. A ballad master, Pepper presents "Here's That Rainy Day" also from Living Legend and earlier, displaying the complete command of the form that would reach its pinnacle on Winter Moon (Galaxy, 1980). The band follows with "What Laurie Likes," a blues-funk piece suggesting Pepper's future masterpiece "Red Car" from his next studio recording.
Pepper closes with his be bop-infused "Straight Life" and "Saratoga Blues" demonstrating that he is a master of that idiom also. "Caravan" is a revelation on this recording as is "Make a List (Make a Wish)" from Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. III; The Croydon Concert, May 14, 1981 (Widow's Taste, 2008). Pepper was capable of reinvention, evolution and perfection in his quest to become the greatest alto saxophonist. Mission accomplished.
Track Listing: Caravan; Ophelia; Here’s That Rainy Day; What Laurie Likes; Straight Life; Saratoga Blues.
Personnel: Art Pepper: alto saxophone; Smith Dobson: piano; Jim Nichols: bass; Brad Bilborn: drums.
Record Label: Widow's Taste
Art Pepper Unreleased Art Vol. III Live At The Winery Sept. 6, 1976
The legacy of one of the greatest alto voices since Charlie Parker lives on!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
With perhaps the exception of Lee Konitz, the artistry of Art Pepper is perhaps the singular most important voice coming from the ranks of the alto saxophone since the passing of the great Charlie Parker.
The particular gig spotlighted with this release was from the start of Art's last comeback although despite a myriad of personal issues the artistic brilliance that is Art Pepper never really goes away, it merely became sidetracked on occasion. The ensemble on this particular date included pianist Smith Dobson, bassist Jim Nichols and drummer Brad Bilhorn. Ballads were the lyrical wheelhouse of Art Pepper and the cover of "Here's That Rainy Day" is perhaps one of those rare tunes that can easily be identified with an instrumentalist with the magic to transform the number into a soulful wonderland of harmonic possibilities. "Ophelia" was a tune composed for Art's drug-addicted second wife and is chameleon like in presentation, changing colors and meters but all with a smoldering swing that Pepper seemed to have the uncanny ability to unleash at a moments notice. "What Laurie Likes" is an Art Pepper original that takes a walk on the funk side and as typical for Pepper's vision, slightly ahead of the curve. Closing out this incredibly engaging set we have "Saratoga Blues." Arguably we have Art Pepper as perhaps the finest lyrical player with a soulful and soul filled approach to ballads and blues that places him well ahead of the pack both then and now.
Art Pepper's widow, Laurie Pepper is still perusing a plethora of material that is obviously of the highest quality and should afford those that perhaps are not as familiar with Pepper's gift the opportunity to become acquainted with an artist that embodies the strictest definition of the word virtuoso. Much like Chet Baker and Bill Evans, Art Pepper left us way too soon.
You never review greatness, you celebrate. Nevertheless, a five star effort.
Tracks: Caravan; Ophelia; Here's That Rainy Day; What Laurie Likes" Straight Life; Saratoga Blues.
Personnel: Art Pepper: Alto Saxophone; Smith Dobson: Piano; Jim Nichols: Bass; Brad Bilhorn: Drums.
ART PEPPER/Unreleased Art Vol VIII-Live at the Winery September 6, 1976: The amazing Pepper archives continue to issue forth with previously unheard material that continues to be mind blowing. Recorded with his NoCal crew at the beginning of his last comeback, Pepper is inspired and playing like someone half his age in twice his health. Crisply recorded from the soundboard at a jazz festival at Paul Masson Winery, something other than posterity was inspiring Pepper to let the fur fly that night in such mighty fashion. With the kind of inspired playing you think you'd have to be closer than most of a continent away from Highway 61 to turn in, whether he's hitting it out of the park on classics or originals you've heard before, you've never heard them like this. The better part of 40 years later, he can still teach the young ‘uns a thing or two about playing like a runaway train and keeping it melodic and in the pocket. Killer stuff that shows we're a long way from nothing but scraps being left on this table. Check it out, all the cats here are on fire.
-Midwest Record Blog-
In 2007, twenty five years after Art Pepper’s death, his widow Laurie began issuing concert recordings of her late husband covering the period of his remarkable renaissance of the last seven years of his life. By working with — or to frustrate — the bootleggers, Mrs. Pepper obtained these rough recordings, handed them over to Wayne Peet for remastering, and issued good-to-great sound quality live records. This Unreleased Art series has been a “win-win” by making these live performances widely available for Art Pepper fans while recouping for Laurie some due compensation for his sweat. A third win comes from further solidifying the legacy of one of post-bop’s most electrifying alto saxophonists.
We don’t know how many of these concert recordings she has left up her sleeve, but we’re now up to Volume Eight with the impending release of Unreleased Art, Vol. VIII, Live At The Winery September 6, 1976.
With Pepper being remarkably consistent in his comeback period, the intrigue of Vol. VIII apart from the previous volumes is that the concert covered in this instance came years earlier, shortly following the release of his “comeback” album Living Legend, and the set includes three of Legend‘s six tracks. Moreover, this is Art backed by his just-assembled “Northern California” band: Smith Dobson (piano); Jim Nichols (bass); Brad Bilhorn (drums), not the bigger names that were to become a part of his touring band in a few years, but plenty competent. Derived from the soundboard, the fidelity is adequate, but the mixing is better.
Vol. VIII confirms what other mid-seventies Pepper recordings already suggest: that Pepper had regained all of his old mojo after substance abuse and rehab had sidelined his career for the better part of fifteen years. He swings like he invented it on the sturdy standard “Caravan,” tears through his rapid-fire lines on “Straight Life,” and aces the lyricism demanded of his own song, “Ophelia.” This is one of the earlier renditions of “Ophelia” captured live, a song that would remain on his set list to the end of his life.
Another one of the originals from Living Legend performed on this night was “What Laurie Likes,” where Nichols plays a funky electric bass line that would have been right at home on a Crusaders record of that period. It’s also where you’ll find Pepper’s great adaptive skills to contemporary sounds, playing along to the groove like Eddie Harris and tossing in outside jazz phrasings at the crescendo part of his solo. In typical fashion, a blues is included, which he waited until the encore to lay one on his audience, another Pepper-penned tune “Sarasota Blues.” Oh yeah, Art was a master of the blues, as this performance demonstrates.
There’s nothing to complain about the support he gets, either; Dobson follows Pepper’s solo on “Caravan” with one that’s just as vigorous, amply supported by Bilhorn’s forceful drums. Nichols’ Larry Graham-inspired bass solo on “Laurie” is a treat that was probably rarely heard in an Art Pepper concert, since Pepper would soon cease playing crossover songs like this one shortly afterwards.
That all said, perhaps the biggest treat of Unreleased Art, Vol. VIII is simply that it provides another occasion to go back and listen to one of the greats of the old school sax players. It’s another reminder that even most of the class of the new school still has a lot of catching up to do. --- S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews