Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Art Pepper: Mosaic Select: Art Pepper

In 1954 Art Pepper finished his first jail stint for narcotics in Fort Worth, Texas, and returned to his home in Los Angeles, eager to get his act together again. Within a few years he was in the studio, cutting a handful of classic albums for Aladdin. This marvelous three-CD box in the Mosaic Select series collects the sessions he recorded between August of 1956 and April of 1957, including four albums issued under his own name-The Return of Art Pepper, Modern Art and The Art of Pepper-and two sideman dates under the leadership of drummer Joe Morello and tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins. Of course, Pepper would continue to have drug problems, but this music definitively proves his genius and creative hunger; it represents one of his most dynamic periods, presaging the killer albums he cut for Contemporary over the following three years.

If The Return of Art Pepper sounds a bit shaky, it wasn’t the leader’s fault. Trumpeter Jack Sheldon simply didn’t have chops or ideas to keep up with Pepper, and while he’s an adequate blower, he’s easily outdone; the rhythm section of Shelly Manne, Leroy Vinnegar and Russ Freeman fares better. Unsurprisingly, some of the strongest performances are without the trumpeter, including tender readings of ballads like “You Go to My Head” and “Patricia,” yet even on the brisk uptempo numbers Pepper vibrantly balances the derring-do of bebop with the more controlled, nuanced tone that dominated so much West Coast jazz of the era.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published