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Art Pepper: Blues for the Fisherman

Thomas Conrad reviews the latest in the 'Unreleased Art' series

Laurie Pepper, Art Pepper’s widow, launched the Unreleased Art project in 2006, and this four-disc set is Volume VI in the series. The first five volumes contain valuable, mostly unreleased live performances from sonically compromised sources like soundboard cassette tapes and surreptitious recordings by fans. Volume VI is different. It is a professional remote recording made at Ronnie Scott’s club in London on June 27 and 28, 1980. Eight of the 25 tracks have seen the light of day before, as Blues for the Fisherman and True Blues, on two LPs from the British Mole Jazz label. Because of Art Pepper’s contract with Galaxy Records, they were issued under the name of sideman Milcho Leviev. Volume VI provides everything that occurred on those two June nights, including Pepper’s spacey spoken intros and several false starts.

They were two nights for the ages. Pepper was in the zone, playing with soul-baring passion and fearless creativity, track after track. He had his best band with him in England. Leviev, a Bulgarian pianist with serious chops who has remained in the shadows of jazz throughout his career, unleashes maniacal solos and incites Pepper with merciless comping. Bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Carl Burnett are locked into the energy.

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