Art Pepper – Winter Moon – Galaxy

by | Feb 27, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Art Pepper – Winter Moon  –  Galaxy GXT8-5140-2 – K2 20-Bit Remastered,  57:42  *****:

(Art Pepper-Alto sax, clarinet on track #6; Stanley Cowell-piano; Howard Roberts-guitar; Cecil McBee-bass; Carl Burnett-drums)

Originally issued in the prized and pricey 16 CD boxed set, The Complete Galaxy Recordings, Concord Record’s 2005 rerelease in brilliant K2 20-bit remastering of Art Pepper’s 1980 Galaxy recording, Winter Moon, is a desert island saxophone with strings issue.

Recording with strings by a jazz musician can be a hit or miss proposition. When done correctly – not oversaturating the soloist with saccharine arrangements – a “with strings” recording can be among the highlights of a jazz musician’s career. Clifford Brown, Ben Webster, and Charlie Parker, all had the opportunity to blend their brilliance with strings in career defining efforts. You can add Art Pepper to that list.

Towards the end of Pepper’s tumultuous career, plagued by drug addiction and stints in jail (including San Quentin) Pepper pours out his heart on arrangements by either Bill Holman or Jimmy Bond. Witness the title track where Pepper’s soulfulness on a ballad can be without peer. Art’s take on The Prisoner – the love theme from the movie The Eyes of Laura Mars, drips with emotion.

Having band mates such as Stanley Cowell on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Howard Roberts on guitar, shows the effort Galaxy made to make this a first-class affair. Pepper does not hog the limelight as evidenced by Howard Roberts tasteful solo on That’s Love and Stanley Cowell’s thoughtful comping throughout the album. An extra treat is getting to hear Pepper on clarinet – which he rarely played. Here he plays clarinet on the moody Blues in the Night.

The pride Art Pepper must have felt in the later stages of his career to have both rid himself of the demons of heroin – aided by both San Francisco-based Synanon and his “Rock of Gibraltar” wife, Laurie – and to see his career end on such a high note is a testament to the survivor in Pepper. There have been strong rumors of a screenplay in development based on Pepper’s life. Winter Moon, remastered in all its 20-bit glory by ace engineer, Tamaki Beck, would make a fitting contribution to the movie soundtrack. A solid Five Stars.

Tracks: Our Song, Here’s That Rainy Day, That’s Love, Winter Moon, When the Sun Comes Out, Blues in the Night, The Prisoner, Our Song (alt take), The Prisoner (alt take), Ol’ Man River

— Jeff Krow

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