Art Pepper left us far too soon at the age of 56. When Pepper passed he was arguably the finest alto player in the world. During the 1950's Pepper was among an elite group of alto players that has been able to cultivate their own unique style in the face of the overwhelming influence of the great Charlie Parker.
Art Pepper's wife Laurie Pepper founded Widow's Taste Records in 2006 to share previously unreleased Pepper recordings to not only his legions of fans but to introduce his remarkable gift to those that perhaps had not heard Pepper. On August 28, 2012 the latest edition will be Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. VII. This two disc gem was recorded back in November of 1980 in Osaka Japan where he was reunited in a sense with long time friend George Cables. According to Laurie Pepper this was a particularly joyous trip for Art which was well reflected in his performance on this release.
Normally in a collection such as this the sound quality becomes an understandable issue based on technology and time alone. A lone audience member made the recording on cassette in a room that was respectfully silent for the alto and clarinet master. The tapes were subsequently remastered and the end result is the warm analog feel some jazz purists so often long for. The tunes include "Cherokee" "Over The Rainbow" and "Donna Lee." The 4tet is rounded out with George Cables on piano, Tony Dumas on bass and Carl Burnett on drums.
This delightful look back is as much a history lesson as it is a traditional review. For the uninitiated, Pepper had his career sidetracked on numerous occasions thanks to an addiction to heroin. Much like the great Bill Evans, Pepper soulful style and profound lyrical genius allowed him to stage more than one successful comeback.
Unrelease Art Pepper, Vol. VII may well be one of the finest live Pepper recordings available. The sound quality is as warm and soulful as Pepper's style while the quartet never sounded better. Sadly a brain hemorrhage took Pepper's life at the age of 56 and while given the serious issues Pepper faced in his personal life it is indeed remarkable that Pepper was able to continuously maintain such a high level of artistry in his career. This is not about the set backs but rather a celebration of one of the finest alto saxophone players the world has ever known. We have his widow Laurie Pepper to thank for this recording. For those that appreciate bebop and the slow evolution to a more hard bop sound as well as the historical aspects associated with certain artists then this release is an absolute must for the aficionado's library. Extensive liner notes with rare personal photographs make for one of the better previously unreleased collections of Art Pepper to date.
Tracks: Disc One Landscape; Talk, band intros; Ophelia; Cherokee; Talk, about Cherokee; Somewhere Over The Rainbow; Talk, presenting George Cables; Quiet Fire (piano solo); Talk, introducing Straight Life; Straight Life.
Disc Two: Y.I. Blues; Talk, about Y.I .Blues; Avalon; Talk, about Avalon; Make A List; Talk, about Make A List; Winter Moon; Talk about Winter Moon; Donna Lee.
Personnel: Art Pepper: alto sax and clarinet; George Cables: piano; Tony Dumas: bass; Carl Burnett: drums.