Jazz CD Reviews

Art Pepper – Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII: Sankei Hall-Osaka, Japan – Widows Taste (2 CDs)

More Art Pepper treasures from the vault...

Published on September 11, 2012

Art Pepper – Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII: Sankei Hall-Osaka, Japan – Widows Taste (2 CDs)

Art Pepper – Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII: Sankei Hall – Osaka, Japan – Widows Taste APMC12001 – 11/18/1980, (2 CDs) 63:50; 60:02  ****:

(Art Pepper, alto sax, clarinet; George Cables, piano; Tony Dumas, bass; Carl Burnett, drums)

Once again, Laurie Pepper, Art’s widow, has met our craving for more unreleased Art Pepper concert material from the last few years of Art’s life.

The latest release from a Nov. 18, 1980, Osaka, Japan concert covers both sets that evening. Art was a jazz hero in Japan, and from his comments to the Osaka audience in at least seven “talk” segments, Pepper clearly relished the audience appreciation showered on the group.

The concert taping (likely on cassette by an audience member) has been partially salvaged by mastering engineer, Wayne Peet. Wayne could only do so much with the tape and the acoustics have a fairly “distant” feel, like many bootleg recordings do. (I found the fidelity on Disc B a bit more pleasing than on the first CD). Peet had more to work with on some other of the Unreleased series, but his work helps us appreciate Pepper’s passionate playing nonetheless.

I believe that I have reviewed nearly all of the seven concerts that Laurie has released. What comes through on each of the issues is the fact that Art seemed to be in a race to “communicate” with his audience, as he knew he was sick and needed the audience reaction as a balm to soothe his soul.

It’s like Art had an IV hooked up from his heart and horn directly to the ears and heart of his fans. Though it was not likely that most of the attendees at the concerts over the last 3-4 years of his life knew how sick that Pepper was, Art still felt that he was most content to lay bare his emotions through his music. He was clean from drugs and playing superbly.

Many of the tracks on the Osaka date can be found on other Unreleased dates, but Laurie Pepper has an innate feel for which concert to release. Some of the previous issues highlight the push/pull relationship between Art and pianist Milcho Leviev, while others feature different drummers and bassists in the rhythm section.

For the Osaka date, Art was privileged to have the genius of pianist George Cables, who brings a warm soul with fleet fingers in backing Pepper. On the drums, we have Carl Burnett, who may not be a household name, but both Laurie in her liner notes, and Art in his introductions, state that Burnett was his favorite drummer.

On each Unreleased series date, there is some “magic” that dictates its release. On the Osaka date, I find that the tracks most deserving of praise are “Over the Rainbow,” “Quiet Fire,” “Make a List (Make a Wish),” and “Winter Moon.” I have selfish reasons for including “Over the Rainbow” as I never tire of hearing Art play this ballad, and his intro to this classic always contains some special choruses. “Quiet Fire” has Art sitting out, and George Cables taking a soulful lead as his one feature that night. “Make a List” many times has Pepper’s most passionate playing as it always features the most direct communication with his pianist, as well as a tempo falling between a burner and a ballad. It’s always a spiritual experience.

“Winter Moon” appears to be Art’s only live recording of the title track of his fabled with-strings recording, which was issued several months after the Osaka date. It is simply sublime and is almost reason enough for purchase of this 2-CD set.

However, for fans of the entire Unreleased series, I do not need to point out its virtues. We simply know that we must have each and every one of the collection. The fidelity may not be top notch on each issue, but they feature an alto genius pouring his heart out with emotion matched by few alto players from then or now. I will eagerly await Laurie’s next present to us Pepper fanatics.

Tracklist:

Disc A: Landscape, band intro, Ophelia, Cherokee, talk about Cherokee, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, talk re: George Cables, Quiet Fire (piano solo), talk re: Straight Life, Straight Life
Disc B: Y.I Blues, talk about Y.I Blues, Avalon, talk about Avalon, Make a List, talk about Make a List, Winter Moon, talk about Winter Moon, Donna Lee

—Jeff Krow




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