Art Pepper – Unreleased Art, Vol. 11: Atlanta – Widows Taste – May, 1980 – 2 CD: 70:55 / 40:32 – ****
(Art Pepper – alto sax; Milcho Leviev – piano; Bob Magnusson – bass; Carl Burnett – drums)
Art Pepper’s widow has continued to feed jazz fans’ desire for previously unreleased (with the exception of bootleg or non-remastered) live material from late in Pepper’s career. There have been ten prior live recordings on Laurie’s Widow Taste label. The newest, Vol. 11, comes from a tour in May, 1980, when Art and his quartet visited Atlanta. The group consists of long time mates, pianist Milcho Leviev; bassist, Bob Magnusson; and drummer, Carl Burnett. Art had no worries when playing with this grouping, as they were all fully locked in with Pepper’s repertoire, and ability to improvise on the spot. The jazz world lost Milcho in Oct., 2019, and this 2 CD set helps document his brilliance, as well as his ability to inspire (and sometimes infuriate..) Pepper. One thing that was certain, is that Milcho kept Art on his toes, knowing that Leviev could mix genres with ease on his solos.
Laurie documented the May, 1980 Atlanta gig on a Sony TCD 5 recorder, using a high end Sony condenser mic. The recording quality is remarkably decent, and the remastering by Wayne Peet certainly helps the acoustic quality. Laurie has included more onstage song intros, and banter from Art than on any other previous “Unreleased Art” issue. Pepper seems inspired by the audience reaction to his comments, and the quartet is in fine form.
The song list is similar to other unreleased live sessions of the later period of Art’s life (this session occurred just a little over two years prior to Art’s passing in June, 1982.) After many life struggles, Pepper was enjoying a resurgence in popularity (especially on the international scene) in the last five years of his life. He had his last gig just one month before he passed. It had to be a joy for Laurie to experience the adulation that came Art’s way, late in life.
There is much to recommend here. Opening with “Blues for Blanche,” an uptempo blues, the quartet asserts their power. Bassist, Magnusson, is fully in the pocket with the mic placement for his bass, well placed. Milcho’s solo swings madly, increasing in intensity, and feels like Jerry Lee Lewis in flamboyance. (I assume he did not not stand up and play mid-solo..)
“The Trip” brings to mind (not that I’ve ever been there, but I watch lots of movies..) wandering in a Turkish bazaar, with its mysteriousness. Leviev’s solo provides a “travelogue” for the trip. Art’s solo reminds us he’s just as much a tour leader as Milcho.
On the standard, “Avalon,” Pepper glides over the chord changes with such ease and comfort, like he is relaxing over a cold drink. Milcho goes into a stride piano run, before briefly quoting Monk.
Art wrote “Patricia” for his daughter in the mid 50s, and largely did not return to playing this tender tune to near the end of his life (maybe due to the emotions it brought up?). It is given a warm reading here with Art, as always, playing with his heart on his sleeve.
“Landscape” is energy personified. It’s off to the races here, with the opening melody covered in well under a minute. It’s remarkable that Bob Magnusson was able to keep time at the frenetic pace that Art sets. Laurie states in her liner notes that this tune was often used as a set closer due to the fact that the audience after being whipped into a frenzy, could take this song’s electricity out into the night.
On Joe Gordon’s “A Song for Richard” Art takes the mood “outside,” but as always still keeps the “swing feel.” Milcho pulls out all the stops on a rollicking soulful solo. The set closes with “Mambo Koyama,” written for Kiyoshi Koyama, the editor of the Japanese jazz magazine, Swing Journal. It has a start/stop pattern with Pepper opening with a repetitive riff. Carl Burnett spurs on the quartet, and Milcho’s solo is like an adrenaline rush. The musical stew comes to a boil before the tape runs out during Bob Magnusson’s bass solo.
A good time was had by all, which was certainly the case when Art Pepper was inspired and accompanied by a group fully in sync with his musical vision. Add one more to the list of superb late period recordings of the iconic Art Pepper…
Blues for Blanche
Talk: Band Intros
Talk: about playing standards
Talk: about Patricia
Talk: about landscape
Talk: about new book
Talk: about Milcho Leviev
A Song for Richard
Talk: about Kiyoshi Koyama
For more information, please visit Widows Taste website.
Recording available through Bandcamp: