7. Art Pepper: Winter Moon (Galaxy, 1980)
The strings on Winter Moon are really sweeteners. The album’s focus is on West Coast jazz’s great alto saxophonist and comeback kid, working with a quintet that included pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Cecil McBee, guitarist Howard Roberts, and drummer Carl Burnett. That said, there’s no denying the stately allure of the strings on “Here’s That Rainy Day” or “Winter Moon,” and their spare, thin touches of aural watercolor on Pepper’s clarinet rendition of “Blues in the Night” are magnificent highlights. Roberts himself acts in concert with the string section in his delicate acoustic work on “The Prisoner,” which also happens to be one of the great late-period showcases for Pepper’s rhythmic smarts and highly personal alto tone.