Art Pepper – Unreleased Art Pepper, Vol. 10: Toronto – Widow’s Taste APM 18001 – 3 CD: 60:36, 50:48, 63:05 – 1977 ****:
Street Date: 11/2/18
(Art Pepper – alto sax; Bernie Senensky – piano; Gene Perla or Dave Piltch – bass; Terry Clarke – drums)
I have enjoyed the nine volumes of previously recorded Art Pepper material that his widow, Laurie Pepper, has released over the years under her label, Widow’s Taste. These recordings, many from cassette, and pirated by fans, were made from the mid-70s to the early 80s (Art passed away in June, 1982). They document the renaissance that Art experienced at the end of his life. He was living with health issues that he knew were likely to cut his life short, yet he was still creative and active, in sharing his gifts with an audience (especially in Europe and Japan), eager to hear him live.
Laurie is releasing a 3 CD set (Vol. 10) on November 2nd, that may be among the most interesting and historically significant, as any in the series. On June 16, 1977, Art appeared with a quartet at the Bourbon Street club in Toronto. It was one week before he was to appear at the Village Vanguard in New York for a series of concerts that were recorded and later issued as a 9 CD set.
The Toronto session was actually Pepper’s first concert as a tour leader, outside of California, in a career that began with stints playing with bands of Benny Carter and Stan Kenton, way back in the mid 1940s. Pepper’s life as a musician had undergone numerous highs and lows throughout the 1950s and 60s, including incarceration at San Quentin, and extended periods of drug addiction, as well as a stay at Synanon in San Francisco.
By the mid 1970s, he had regained his strength and enough vibrancy, with the help of Laurie, to begin a late in life resurgence, and a rediscovery by fans overseas, to remain active until his health issues caught up with him. Interestingly enough, this Toronto date was just one day short of exactly five years before his death (June 15, 1982).
The music on these three CDs is classic late period Art Pepper. Consisting of two Pepper originals, with the balance of the tracks, seven standards, and a stunning version of Joe Gordon’s, “A Song for Richard.” His quartet is made up of Bernie Senensky on piano, either Gene Perla, or a very young, Dave Piltch, on bass, and the underrated Terry Clarke, on drums. Senensky was unknown to me, prior to this recording. He acquits himself admirably here (which was often the case with pianists playing with Pepper as his passion on the horn inspired the same with his accompanists). Bernie’s solo on “Samba Mom Mom” is on fire, matching Art’s mercurial choruses, on this track that Pepper wrote, expressing his love for Laurie.
Art’s speed and take no prisoners blowing is also on display on “Long Ago and Far Away.”
Pepper’s way with ballads has always been special to me. On “All the Things You Are” he begins tenderly, but as the tune progresses, the intensity increases. Like a love affair, it is beautiful and charming at its inception, then the passion takes over as the guard rails come off. Art was a master of putting “all of his chips on the table.”
His affinity for the blues is demonstrated in different fashions. On his tune, “Blues for Heard,” it is more joyful. However on “The Summer Knows,” Art masterfully lets the more melancholy attributes of the blues take full rein.
There are two other strong appeal points to this new set of unreleased Pepper gems. One is the liner notes by Laurie, in which she describes Pepper’s eager anticipation for his first real tour as a sole leader, the first of many that would continue over the next five years. In great detail, she also lays out all of the issues (highs and lows) of putting out these ten volumes of late period Art Pepper. The profits earned have been minimal at best. The joy that they have brought to his fans, however, have been incalculable.
The other strong bonus, presented at the end of Disc 3, is an extended 30 minute recorded interview with Art by a Toronto disc jockey, Hal Hill. Art’s charming optimism, as well as his insatiable love for all kinds of music, and his love for Miles, Pres, and Coltrane, are on full display.
Fans of Art Pepper should definitely make sure that Vol. 10 of this series be in their collection. If Laurie is still up to the task, let’s hope that there is a few more volumes of these Art Pepper treasures to surface in the future.
A Song for Richard
Long Ago and Far Away
Here’s that Rainy Day
Blues for Heard
What is This Thing Called Love?
All the Things You Are
The Summer Knows
I’ll Remember April
Samba Mom Mom
Art Pepper Interview
Link to more info and tracks here: