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Art Pepper

Despite a remarkably colorful and difficult life, Art Pepper was quite consistent in the recording studios; virtually every recording he made is well worth getting. In the 1950s he was one of the few altoists (along with Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond) that was able to develop his own sound despite the dominant influence of Charlie Parker. During his last years, Pepper seemed to put all of his life's experiences into his music and he played with startling emotional intensity.

After a brief stint with Gus Arnheim, Pepper played with mostly black groups on Central Avenue in Los Angeles. He spent a little time in the Benny Carter and Stan Kenton orchestras before serving time in the military (1944-1946). Some of Pepper's happiest days were during his years with Stan Kenton (1947-1952), although he became a heroin addict in that period. The 1950s found the altoist recording frequently both as a leader and a sideman, resulting in at least two classics (Plays Modern Jazz Classics and Meets the Rhythm Section), but he also spent two periods in jail due to drug offenses during 1953-1956. Pepper was in top form during his Contemporary recordings of 1957-1960, but the first half of his career ended abruptly with long prison sentences that dominated the 1960s. His occasional gigs between jail terms found him adopting a harder tone influenced by John Coltrane that disturbed some of his longtime followers. He recorded with Buddy Rich in 1968 before getting seriously ill and rehabilitating at Synanon (1969-1971). Art Pepper began his serious comeback in 1975 and the unthinkable happened. Under the guidance and inspiration of his wife Laurie, Pepper not only recovered his former form but topped himself with intense solos that were quite unique; he also enjoyed occasionally playing clarinet. His recordings for Contemporary and Galaxy rank with the greatest work of his career. Pepper's autobiography Straight Life (written with his wife) is a brutally honest book that details his sometimes horrifying life. When Art Pepper died at the age of 56, he had attained his goal of becoming the world's great altoist. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Best musician, ever, Paul Desmond.
Read "Straight Life". One heck of a bio.
His sound is so unique and passion
From the look in his eye and the sound coming from his horn you knew Art knew what it was all about.
I had the great good fortune to hear this phenomenal Alto Genius on several occasions - With Kenton, in a small group with Shorty once or twice in a club near Griffith Park and a couple times down on Central
Avenue - I also met him at Synanon as I signed in a fallen relative who fortunately recovered - His sound continues to9 be definitive and without a doubt (In my opinion) Had the greatest sound of any Alto Man - Not to say I don't enjoy Coltrane or Bird - Miss them all
@degimom2 (and Brian). I second Brian's comment. I live in LA (Sherman Oaks) and am sad I missed a lot of that jazz scene.

I manage to get up to Vibrato and a Vitello's fairly often, but wish there was a stronger scene here.
@degimom2. great story. So, that would make you around 76yrs old, and an active pandora user. Awesome! rock on!
I went to hear Art Pepper in LA in the late fifties. He was not present and we waited to see what was going on. He came through the front door of the club, looked around and then left. I don't remember where it was, but it was a rundown place and the disappointed crowd talked about his being pretty strung out and that he missed gigs. It was a scary understandab l e circumstance , his problems were shared by many of his fans at this point of his life. Those small bars were the darkside of LA Jazz.
Correction. I found the cassette (Laurie's Choice) in a bargain bin (sad but true) in the early 90's. Again, according to the liner notes, it was recorded by Laurie during some of his last tours. In light of jphn9889's comments, I looked at some discogaphies from various websites, and Laurie's Choice was not mentioned (interesting ) . I agree, Bird would be on most favorite alto's list
These last two commdents are strange. Hearing live Art Pepper from the late 80s and early 90s would be interesting, What was he playing, a harp? Anybody listing favorite altos and leaving Bird off the list. Well, I guess tastes can vary, but still . . .
Laurie may have been the best thing that ever came into his troubled life. That said, he, Stitt, and Phil Woods remain my favorite altoists.
I found a cassette tape of Art Pepper (Laurie's Choice). According to the liner notes, Laurie took a Yamaha digital recorder on some of his last tours and recorded directly from the mixer.It was from live performances in the late 80's & early 90's. It's definitely worth a listen
Terry Castle wrote a funny nd touching essay about her fascination with Art Pepper. It is included in the book The Professor and Other Writings. A very good read.
A great sound from a troubled man.
i can always identify his sound....and yes it is true that he developed that sound despite the influences of his time on that instrument.
I had a chance to hang with Art while he played in denver during the 1980,s What a remarkable man he was. I miss him to this day. I hope Laurie is doing well.
lvista525
as one of his album titles states:
Art Lives

gone but not forgotten
dunann
Art is my favorite.... m y dad, Roy duNann, was Art's sound engineer at Contemporary . I was fortunate to watch Art record his greatest hits. My dad is now 91 and living in Woodinville, Wa. We miss Art.
Art was the GREATEST! He studied, emulated, worked and arranged with the best of them. There has never been an equal, and considering the difficult life he lead, makes him even more amazing. He may be gone, but his style and music will live on.
Art was the man. There will never another Art Pepper. It's amazing how much he acomplished while fighting off the demons. Read his book "Straight Life". You can buy it and it comes with a CD.
Absolutely amazing!
Hes the greatest!
great music, there's not really much else to say
It is hard to listen to art play and say I can do the same with practice. either you have it or don't. And I just don't have it. I stopped fooling myself years ago.
There's not much that I can say about Art Pepper and his legacy, above and beyond what has already been recorded and written. He was one of the great modern jazz interpreters . It's really amazing that this man could be so accomplished and gifted, and lead such a tough life. I guess it's possible when you're a genius.
Phenommenal! ! !

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