Recorded 1978, 1980 and 1981 at different venues in Japan and the US: 1 at Yubin Chokin Hall, Tokyo, November 24 1981; 2 in Atlanta, Ga., May 1980; 3 in Sapporo on November 22, 1981 and 4 in Kobe, Japan soemtime in 1978. Names of engineers are not available, except for 2: Laurie Pepper.
Although it has come out on a budget label, these four performances (taken from concert appearances in 1978, 1980 and 1981) had never previously been released before. With support from either George Cables or Milcho Leviev on piano, David Williams or Bob Magnusson on bass and drummer Carl Burnett, the great altoist Art Pepper is in excellent form on an emotional "Kobe Blues," an intense version of "Patricia" and hard-swinging renditions of "Allen's Alley" and his own "Straight Life."
All Music Guide
Detween 1977 and his death in June of 1982 (at the age of 56) Art Pepper made his last comeback. His life til then had been a pattern of departures and returns. Art was unlucky enough to have been an addict when lengthy prison terms for possessors of narcotics were the norm. He was arrested and incarcerated regularly, and it's astonishing that he could emerge from the prison system, from years of institutionalization and criminalization - still intact as a human being and as an artist. But he did. His lifelong artistry is celebrated by his fellow musicians, by critics and fans. His humanity is attested to by those who knew him well. I knew him very well and knew that he'd been damaged by what he'd done to himself and what had been done to him. He could be misanthropic and suspicious. But he hadn't been broken. He always believed that beauty was truth and that emotional truth was the most important thing in the world. He believed that he could create beauty out of the pain he'd suffered. That inspired him to play and gave him joy.
Art toured the U.S. with Stan Kenton's various bands and orchestras in the late '40s and early '50's. After that, his problems kept him in California - until 1977 when a tour was arranged by a fan and good friend, record producer, John Snyder. After that came an immensely successful brief tour of Japan, a trip to England, publication of his biography, "Straight Life," and then almost unceasing touring of the U.S. and Canada, Europe and Japan.
The music on this album was recorded in the course of those tours. Art felt he had to make up for time lost and allowed, even encouraged, recording of his live performances. He made me purchase a Sony TCD 9 and begged me to drag it around to the gigs so that we wouldn't lose any more music. (Unfortunately the TCD 9 was stolen, so only a few performances were recorded that way). When Art died, I gathered up all the cassettes made by me and by others and put them in a safe deposit box. This year, ten years after his death, I opened the box and brought some of those tapes home to listen to. Each one reminded me of a particular night in a particular place. All together they reminded me of road hassles, wonderful meals, terrible accommodations, great audiences, bad weather, good friends. There were thrilling discoveries. There were sad disappointments: Why does the tape always seem to run out right in the middle of a terrific solo? How come all you can hear is the bass drum? Some nights were lackluster, unredeemable. On other nights the band got in the groove from the first note and stayed there. All of the performances contained here are wonderful, and technically, I've judged that they're not bad. Engineer, Kris Solem, has EQ'd them so that all band members can be heard but none too much. The sax sounds like Art sounded. And what these recordings lack in technical perfection, they make up for in musical beauty.
"Allen's Alley" is just marvelous bebop (also known as "Wee"). This was the last tune of the second, and final, set recorded on November 24th, 1981 at a concert at Yubin Chokin Hall in Tokyo. It was recorded on a TCD 9 by the sound engineer for the concert using the house system. Tokyo audiences are somewhat blase, and as a result, they're sometimes a little unresponsive. Art always worked hard to work them up, because to a certain extent he fed off the energy he felt from the audience. On this night he got them out of their seats. The band is George Cables, David Williams, and Carl Burnett.
"Patricia" is reason enough for this set of recordings to be issued. It was recorded in May, 1980 in Atlanta Georgia, by me using the TCD 9 and Sony BE One Point Stereo ECM 990 F microphone. The band is Milcho Leviev. Bob Magnusson. and Carl Burnett. This is probably the best performance Art ever gave of his original tune. We'd been covering a lot of ground and the band had performed a lot together by the time we arrived in Atlanta. They were tight and playing beautifully. The concert was held at a small theater-in-the-round. The audience circled the performers, and, as Milcho began his solo, Art sat down next to me (I was in the front row) to listen. This solo is especially lovely. At one point, Art turned to me and whispered in my ear, "Milcho sure has learned a lot from me." You can hear Art's exclamations of admiration as he returned to the mike, and his remarks to the audience at the end are as stunning as the performance. Listen to his voice break as he says, "That's jazz."
"Straight Life", Art's most famous original chart, was recorded as was "Allen's Alley" off the house system by the same engineer. Of course it's the same band, but it's a different house. "Straight Life" was recorded at a concert in Sapporo on November 22, 1981, and this was probably the best concert of the '81 tour. As I said, the audiences in Tokyo are, typically, restrained. The audiences in Hokkaido are impassioned, and their enthusiasm always inspired Art to heights of eloquence, energy, and, in this case, speed.
"Kobe Blues" was the last tune (a wild, slow blues) of a wild night at a nightclub in Kobe. Japan in 1978. It was taped by a Japanese radio station. The show was very late getting started due to technical problems. Art was frustrated and tired, and he used those emotions to good purpose on this blues. The band is Milcho Leviev, Bob Magnusson, and Carl Burnett.
- Laurie Pepper