Jazz CD Reviews
Art Pepper – Unreleased Art, Vol. 3 – The Croydon Concert – May 14, 1981 – Widows Taste
Published on May 20, 2008
(Art Pepper, alto sax: Milcho Leviev, piano; Bob Magnusson, bass; Carl Burnett, drums)
True jazz fans should be deeply indebted to Laurie Pepper. In the category of archival releases, a Grammy award should be set aside for Ms. Pepper for self-producing rare and valuable works for collectors of Art Pepper’s discography. When our jazz masters pass away, we deeply mourn their passing for most often their discography has come to an end, and we are left with no new issues to savor and anticipate. A rare session is found now and then in the archives such as the recent Monk/Coltrane Carnegie Hall session, but this seldom happens.
Two women come to mind for keeping the flames burning for their genius husbands. They are Sue Mingus on behalf of Charles, and Laurie Pepper, who on a shoestring budget and through blood, sweat, and tears, has self-released three issues of unreleased Art Pepper concerts from 1981-1982. The first two were from late 1981 in Japan, and May of 1982 in Washington, D.C. (just before Art’s passing), which was Pepper’s last recorded concert.
The latest treasure, a 2-CD issue, from a Croydon, England concert is from May 14, 1981. Pepper was in a race to tour and perform for his adoring public – especially in Europe and Japan – as he knew his health was beginning to deteriorate, and the years between 1979 to 1981 were a time of non-stop touring in a seeming race to the finish line.
Whereas Carl Burnett was a fixture on drums during most all of this period, George Cables, and Roger Kellaway occupied the piano chairs, for the first two Unreleased sessions. David Williams was the bassist for the first two issues. Here for the Croydon concert, Eastern European born Milcho Leviev was the pianist and Bob Magnusson is the bassist.
Leviev, although lesser known than Cables and Kellaway, was more a firebrand than the other two piano players. According to Laurie, he could both inspire or infuriate Art depending on his mood, and his ability to overwhelm Art’s playing when his obstinacy reared up. Magnusson, on the other hand was rock-steady and nurturing, while Burnett was the calm professional, always dependable and in tune with Art’s passion.
The tapes for the Croydon concert were provided to Laurie by an unnamed fan, an obsessive collector of bootleg Pepper concerts. The sound is surprisingly good and kudos should go to Wayne Peet for a brilliant remastering job.
Ophelia and Goodbye are the only shared titles from the other two unreleased discs.
Highlights here are plenty. Blues for Blanche, written for one of Art’s cats, drips with blues lines – both from Art and Milcho’s great solos. Magnusson’s bass playing is brilliant and Burnett’s cymbal work is a gas. Ophelia is lyrical Art at his best. I love Magnusson’s accompaniment here and he is well mixed in the mastering. Patricia, written for Art’s daughter, is exquisite and you can tell Art’s emotions regarding Patricia are first and foremost on display here.
On Disc Two, Cherokee is straight bebop and Milcho’s solo shines in both its piano facility and “bopability.” Goodbye, a grieving salute to Hampton Hawes, shows Pepper’s gut-wrenching, pouring out his heart. In compositions like Goodbye, for raw emotion, Pepper is unsurpassed. You almost feel like he is spitting up blood in his solos, as the passion is so palpable. Bob Magnusson’s bass work here amps up the emotion.
I have loved each of the Unreleased series, but I have to say that Vol. 3 is my favorite. Its combination of funky swinging blues combined with Art’s lay-it-on-the-line blowing knocks me out.
This 2-CD set can be purchased online through CD Baby or through links on Laurie Pepper’s website, www.straightlife.info – God bless you, Laurie, for these heretofore unreleased masterpieces.
TrackList: Disc 1: Blues for Blanche, Band intro, Ophelia, Mambo de la Pinto, Patricia
Disc 2: Cherokee, Goodbye, Yours is My Heart Alone, Dedicated, Make a List (Make a Wish)
- Jeff Krow