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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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ART PEPPER

Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section

CONTEMPORARY RECORDS OJC REMASTERS 0888072319929

[50:50]

 

 

  1. You'd be so nice to come home to
  2. Red Pepper Blues
  3. Imagination
  4. Waltz Me Blues
  5. Straight Life
  6. Jazz Me Blues
  7. Tin Tin Deo
  8. Star Eyes
  9. Birks' Works
  10. The Man I love
Art Pepper (alto)
Red Garland (piano)
Paul Chambers (bass)
Philly Joe Jones (drums)

Rec. January 1957, at Contemporary’s Studios, LA, CA

 

The ad hoc nature of this summit meeting is very well known by now; it was perhaps less well known that Pepper was pretty strung out drugs wise just before the date, and had only recently finished a ten month prison stretch. The fact that his alto was pretty shredded seems, by contrast, almost incidental given the plethora of personal problems from which he suffered.

You'd never know it. And this is one of the wonders of the date in which Pepper teamed up with Miles Davis's rhythm section for a nine track distillation - we also have a bonus tenth track here - of his harmonic and lyric gifts. Fuelled as he was by `adrenalin, anger and dope', Pepper digs into the selection with total confidence. A pre-recording run through was apparently all he needed, even in songs unfamiliar to him, to get the harmonic and melodic gist of things.

For example he'd apparently never played You'd be so nice to come home to but the fluency, fluidity and almost nonchalant control of its harmonic movement is awe inspiring. The trio provides perfect support, from Red Garland's slightly terse comping to Paul Chambers's apposite deployment and Jones's perfect time keeping. Pepper's explanation for playing songs he didn't know as if he's known them a hundred years was that he was trying to stick as close as he could to the melody line, something he does in another piece he didn't know beforehand, Imagination.

Waltz Me Blues is a fine example of Pepper's glissandi-laced soloing, Philly Joe's brisk support, and Garland's subtle treble based colours and harmonic backing. Chambers's bowed bass illuminates the textures of Straight Life and in Jazz Me Blues we find Pepper pursuing an old flame, Dixieland, and clothing it anew. (He always said he loved Muggsy Spanier.) Tin Tin Deo receives a gripping arrangement in which the playing is seamlessly integrated and wholly compelling in its narrative certainty. The Man I love was only issued in 1972. Again Chambers's buzzing arco solo broadens the colours open to the band; there are good solos all round.

Much admired though this is, and a classic of its time, and all our times, it's good to see the album re-released in this way, and in such excellent sound.

Jonathan Woolf



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