Album Reviews

Art Pepper

West Coast Sessions Vol 3 & Vol. 4

Artist:     Art Pepper

Album:     West Coast Sessions Vol 3 & Vol. 4

Label:     Omnivore

Release Date:     6/30/2017


The Konitz album (Volume 3) originally issued as High Jingo was recorded in January 1982 and features both the leader and Pepper primarily on alto sax although Pepper plays clarinet on the ballad, “The Shadow of Your Smile.” The producer of these sessions, Yasuyuki Ishihara, thinking it would be more interesting, insisted on using a variety of players even though Pepper had his own group at the time. Since the idea was to do standards, Pepper agreed and he and Laurie chose the rhythm section comprised of the lively pianist Michael Lang, along with Bob Magnusson on bass and John Dentz on drums. Lee mostly chose the tunes, one of which he wrote with the others from composers Gershwin and iconic bassist Paul Chambers, and Ray Noble’s furious tempo be-bop classic, “Cherokee.” Credit for the title track goes to Pepper in an interesting way. In the liners, Laurie writes, “Mike Lang opens the next tune- which was supposed to be a standard, but the liberties Mike takes with it makes it all brand-new, unrecognizable, and so I called it by the same name Atlas gave the album, “High Jingo,” and claimed it for Art Pepper.” This was the last session Pepper recorded before he passed in June 1982.

The Watrous sessions were the first ones recorded in this series, in March of ’79, with Pepper cohorts Russ Freeman on piano, Pepper on alto, Bob Magnusson on bass, and Carl Burnett on drums. Originally titled Funk n’ Fun, the album is a mix of standards (“Just Friends,” “Begin the Beguine,” “When Your Lover Has Gone,” and Mike Dennis’s gorgeous “Angel Eyes”) along with a tune written by Watrous, “For Art’s Sake,” and Pepper’s “Funny Blues.” Pepper, as usual, really shines on the ballads. The swinging closer, “P. Town,” was chosen by Watrous. Laurie says this about the title of the album, “It might be a little light on the “funk” and a little restrained on the “fun,” but it’s a sunny album, calm and happy, and a joy to listen to.”

As we’ve heard through these unearthed recordings over the past couple of years, Pepper can be lyrical, soulful, and animated in both his solos and ensemble playing. Listen up and stay tuned. Even more is on the way.

—Jim Hynes


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