Art Pepper Quartet – Blues for the Fisherman / Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. VI / Live at Ronnie Scott’s London – Widows Taste 11001 – 1980 – (4 CD box set) – CD 1: 79:55 / CD 2: 64:49 / CD 3: 70:38 / CD 4: 69:56 (Transferred from the original analog tapes for CD reissue) *****:
(Art Pepper, alto sax and clarinet; Milcho Leviev, piano; Tony Dumas, bass; Carl Burnett, drums)
I reviewed the Mole Jazz / Pure Pleasure 7 audiophile LP box set of Blues for the Fisherman in March 2011 and gave it 5 stars for both its historical value and the superb sound quality as well as the passion that Art brought to his recordings at London’s iconic Ronnie Scott’s club with his touring group of this period.
For those without the pocket book funds to afford the PurePleasure box set, Art’s widow, Laurie, has done the kind service of issuing this material over 4 CDs at a much more reasonable price. I can honestly say that Wayne Peet has done a remarkable job remastering the twenty five tracks recorded over two nights (June 27-28, 1980) and the resulting product is well worth the purchase price without a dramatic loss of sound quality over the audiophile PurePleasure issue. Interestingly enough, we have found the fifteen tracks of oral introductions, and story telling by Art, in his unique stream of consciousness fashion, to be much clearer with better fidelity on the CD issue as compared to the audiophile LPs. It would be interesting to find out what enabled Peet to bring out this difference on CD using the same analog tapes that PurePleasure had.
Laurie includes personal photos and 24 pages of notes in the booklet provided with the CD set and she lovingly describes Art’s state of mind during the recording of these tracks. It is a great memento and much more valuable and accurate than any reviewer could have provided as Laurie’s care and love of Art enabled him to remain vibrant with his music till he passed on just two years later.
Fans of Blues for the Fisherman have been waiting three decades to have more than the two LPs that Mole Jazz released at the time. Now we have 17 additional previously unreleased tracks. With the seven records of the PurePleasure box or the 4 CDs now released, you can experience the entire recordings made over two nights by one of Art’s best touring groups. The group had traveled over Europe and that experience had made their cohesiveness fully formed.
We are treated to extended compositions with Milcho and Art exploring improvised musical conversations. Leviev and Pepper had a tempestuous relationship, but clearly they were inspired by each other and each have many extended solos that enter both mainstream and avant classic territory.
Some of the tracks are repeated the next night, but as with Art, each performance is different and has its own charms. There is a mixture of ballads and burning numbers, and what is most evident is the passion that Art pours out as he bares his soul, and his life experience both in his playing and his heartfelt comments. Pepper left it all on the bandstand and we are richer musically for his gifts that he shared. Having the opportunity to hear Art play clarinet with the same gut-wrenching intensity that he had on the alto sax just adds to the historical value of this material. Simply said, Blues for the Fisherman belongs in the collection of any true jazz fan…
CD 1: Blues for Blanche, Talk: Intros/Cat People, Ophelia, Talk, Make a List, intro to Make a List, Sad a Little Bit, Talk re: Clarinet, Anthropology, Red Car, Blues for Bould
CD 2: Untitled #34, Talk, A Song for Richard, Talk re: Rhythm-A-Ning, Rhythm-A-Ning, Talk: Rita San Goodbye, intro, Rita San false start, Rita San, What’s New, I’ll Remember April, Talk: Good Night
CD 3: True Blues, Talk: Band and Ophelia intro, Ophelia, Make a List, Stardust, Talk, Red Car false start, Red Car, Talk re: Straight Life, Straight Life
CD 4: Untitled #34, Talk, The Trip, Talk, I’ll Remember April, Talk re: Goodbye intro, In a Mellow Tone, Talk: Clarinet/ Play the blues, Blues for the Fisherman + Talk
— Jeff Krow