This is a true classic. Altoist Art Pepper is joined by an 11-piece band playing Marty Paich arrangements of a dozen jazz standards from the bop and cool jazz era. Trumpeter Jack Sheldon has a few solos, but the focus is very much on the altoist who is in peak form for this period. The CD reissue adds two additional versions of "Walkin'" and one of "Donna Lee" to the original program. Throughout, Pepper sounds quite inspired by Paich's charts which feature the band as an active part of the music rather than just in the background. Highlights of this highly enjoyable set include "Move," "Four Brothers," "Shaw Nuff," "Anthropology," and "Donna Lee," but there is not a single throwaway track to be heard. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.
All Music Guide
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IN A PERIOD WHEN the qualifications for having one's own jazz album remains nebulous, it's been all the more astonishing that Art Pepper has been in charge of so few. Pepper has grown remarkably in imagination and emotional depth in the past few years as was hotly clear in Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary 3532, Stereo 7018). In this new, uniquely integrated set, Pepper receives a differently challenging framework from Marty Paich than he - or most other soloists - has yet received on records. And Art responds with consistent brilliance.
What Paich has done has been to provide more than just accompaniment for Art. He has integrated the resilient band backgrounds with Art's playing in a way that stimulates Pepper but doesn't obstruct the improvisatory flow of his ideas. Paich was able to accomplish this fusion because he knows Pepper's style well through several years of association, including dates on which Marty was pianist for Art.
"I wanted to give him," Paich notes, "a different kind of inspiration than he's been used to with just a quartet behind him. I wanted Art to feel the impact of the band, and I thought this setting would spur him to play differently than usual - though still freely within his natural style. And it did. Art and I have always thought very much alike. I couldn't have asked for a more compatible soloist." Keeping Art free and yet integrated with the band was the main challenge for Paich. "There are even sections here - unlike the usual big band situation-in which Art improvises with just the rhythm section."
Art Pepper was born in Gardena, California, September 1, 1925, and his apprenticeship was spent in after-hours clubs on Central Avenue in Los Angeles' Negro community. He's played with Gus Arnheim, Lee Young, Benny Carter and Stan Kenton. The Kenton association was interrupted by two and a half Army years after which Art returned for five more with Stan. During this latter time he gained a major reputation as one of the very few original modern jazz altoists after Charlie Parker. In recent years, he's generally been leading small combos of his own on the Coast and further developing a highly charged tenor style in addition to his strikingly hot alto. Marty Paich, born in Oakland, California, January 23, 1925 is thoroughly trained in classical as well as jazz writing and has received bachelor and master degrees at Los Angeles Conservatory. He's been arranging for seventeen years, and his charts are in the libraries of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and the new Terry Gibbs band. Paich has scored vocal backgrounds for Mel Torme, Lena Home, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others; and he's worked as a jazz pianist and accompanist for singers. Marty finds little time for piano now, having one of the busiest writing schedules on the West Coast.
The programmatic concept of the album is also challenging to both Pepper and Paich. These are twelve established modern jazz standards - music directly out of the jazz experience, written by jazzmen. They're part of that growing body of thoroughly indigenous jazz material to which player-writers like Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, Duke Ellington, and in more recent years, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, John Lewis and others have contributed.
Pepper and Paich collaborated on selecting these twelve songs. "We treated them with a great deal of respect," Paich emphasizes. "The tune itself is there all the time. Unlike, for example, doing jazz versions of Broadway shows, with these jazz standards you don't have to alter and extend the chords and make other changes for jazz purposes."
Move by drummer Denzil Best has been recorded by a number of jazzmen, including Fats Navarro and George Shearing, but the key record was by the nine-man Miles Davis Capitol unit in 1949. Pepper's is more extroverted than Miles' version and serves as a vehicle for Art's shouting tenor. The valve trombone solo is by Bob Enevoldsen; the trumpet solo is by Jack Sheldon, who plays all the trumpet solos in the album.
Groovin' High by Dizzy Gillespie was first called Fast Freight. It was recorded by Dizzy and Charlie Parker for Guild in 1945. Paich uses the same introduction as Dizzy, but otherwise, the feeling of the writing is quite different, more loping than running.
Horace Silver recorded Opus De Funk on his first album for Blue Note in 1953 at a time when that word was just beginning its newer, sanctified role in the general jazz argot. Paich followed Horace's introduction. Here again, Art doesn't strain to be "funky" but lets his feeling out his own way with apt commentary by the band that sets off Art's points and makes some of its own.
Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight was first recorded by Cootie Williams in 1944. The arrangement gives free space for Pepper's superior ability to get inside ballads. "All he needs," notes Marty, "is a melody that has a little body to it so that he can really express himself. Here I get the feeling that he's really crying."
Four Brothers is pretty much a literal transcription of the original Jimmy Giuffre arrangement for Woody Herman in 1947, for three tenors and baritone. It was the first Giuffre arrangement ever recorded and it started his reputation. "The voicing wasn't anything new," Jimmy recalls. "It's vertical and goes back to at least Fletcher Henderson and probably before." Art plays lead tenor here; and in the section work on Groovin' High and Airegin, he's on lead alto. "I always enjoyed playing lead but haven't had too much chance to." Note how the band roars on this one.
Shawnuff by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker was recorded by them in 1945. The treatment here - both in the scoring and the playing - is crisply incisive.
The lightly jumping Bernie's Tune was a favorite in modern jazz circles, especially for jamming, for some time, particularly after the Gerry Mulligan Quartet record.
Mulligan's Walkiri Shoes was written for his quartet and was later arranged for his Tentette album as well as for the Kenton band. Gerry likes to walk, whistles as he walks, gets into a tempo, and "possibly the melody came to me that way."
Anthropology started as the out chorus on Thrivin' from a Riff in the 1945 Charlie Parker Savoy recording. The choice of clarinet as Pepper's solo instrument here complements the tune's airy jauntiness.
Sonny Rollins' Airegin was first recorded by Miles Davis and Sonny for Prestige on June 29, 1954. The title is Nigeria reversed. It's been since recorded by Miles Davis again, Phil Woods and Gene Quill, the Bill Holman big band, and others. In this arrangement I'm struck by the spontaneous-sounding quality of Paich's writing for the band dialogues with Pepper and with trumpeter Sheldon.
Walkiri was first recorded in 1950, but the best known interpretation was by Miles Davis in 1954. Art's tenor solo on this would make an interesting Blindfold Test entry for a musician who claimed to be able to identify an "East Coast" from a "West Coast" player.
Donna Lee by Charlie Parker was recorded by Parker and Miles Davis for Savoy in 1947 with Bud Powell, Tommy Potter and Max Roach. Paich, as in most of his writing for the album, maintains the feeling of a small band and calls on the larger resources of his bigger complement judiciously.
In essence, Art Pepper + Eleven demonstrates, first of all, how mature a soloist Art Pepper has become. It also re-emphasizes how much of their own material jazzmen have to work with, and helps considerably in making known Marty Paich's qualifications as a particularly knowledgeable and sensitive jazz arranger.
- Nat Hentoff October 21, 1959