Art Pepper and Lee Konitz – Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions, Vol. 3 – Omnivore 

Art Pepper and Lee Konitz – Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions, Vol. 3 – Omnivore OCD 224 – 1982 – 56:04 – ****:

Hot and cool – Art Pepper and Lee Konitz…

(Art Pepper – alto sax and clarinet; Lee Konitz – alto sax; Michael Lang – piano; Bob Magnusson – bass; John Dentz – drums)

Recorded just six months before Art Pepper’s death, the latest in the re-released West Coast Sessions series, from Omnivore Records, matches Art Pepper with Lee Konitz. It is somewhat similar to another L.A. based session that was recently released by Laurie Pepper(on her Widows Taste label) that featured Art and Warne Marsh.  Both these recordings blend cool/cerebral saxophonists with the hot “wear your heart on your sleeve” passion that Art Pepper brought to the bandstand.

All of the West Coast Sessions (there are several more hopefully that will be released in the near future) had Art officially as a sideman, when they were originally released between 1979 to 1982 on the Japanese label, Atlas, individually, and later as a box set. Since Art was under contract with Galaxy Records, he could not record for another label at the time. Art was able to pick both the “leader” and sidemen for each session and the song selection was largely standards, with a few compositions each from Art and the de facto “leader.” They were West Coast friendly arrangements that pleased the Japanese market, who wisely dug the contrapuntal play between Art and the other lead horn.

Vol. 3 has the seven original tracks from the Atlas release, plus two alternate numbers (that Galaxy Records was able to raid for their Art Pepper Hollywood All Star Sessions  CDs in 1993). Art and Lee are matched with a well blended rhythm section of  Michael Lang on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass, and John Dentz on drums.

“S’Wonderful” from Gershwin opens the CD with an easygoing arrangement, the two altos playing off  each other with swinging ease. Magnusson, on bass, is as solid as a Rolex in his time keeping  providing a steady pulse. “Whims of Chambers” again with Bob’s steady bass, provides the stage for Konitz to swing, and is strictly comfort music, Like your momma’s favorite recipe, it hits the spot.

“High Jingo” written by Pepper, shows the contrast between Lee’s more cerebral attack, insistent yet classy, whereas Pepper (as usual) takes no prisoners when he has lead. Each gets the job done. Konitz tracks the beast while Art goes for the jugular like a pit bull, all business. They “share the kill” as the tune ends, each belly full and less frantic.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” has Art on clarinet. He is very gentle here, almost ruminating as he blows. Lee puts a bit more passion in his solo. Even though it’s a ballad, I could have used a bit more heat here.

“The Anniversary Song” is a jazzed up bride/groom opening dance with the bride’s father stepping in mid tune. Dad would have been a bit perplexed though, when Art spices up the tune with some venturing “out.” “Cherokee” is given a true bebop workout, with each each altoist completely in their comfort zone. This one did not probably need more than a take or two to complete.

The two bonus tracks, “S’Wonderful” and “Whims of Chambers” provide an opportunity to compare to the master takes and I found that I preferred the alternate take of “S’Wonderful.” Art Pepper was in fine relaxed form here in January, 1982, just six months before his passing, likely content not to have to deal with the responsibilities of being officially the session leader. Thirty five years later, we get the full benefit of this swinging “West Coast Session.”

Tracklist:
S’Wonderful
Whims of Chambers
A Minor Blues in F
High Jingo
The Shadow of Your Smile
Anniversary Song
Cherokee

Bonus Tracks: 
S’Wonderful
Whims of Chambers

-Jeff Krow

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