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Pepper Art: San Francisco Samba

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In the last stage of his career Art Pepper’s playing was more openly emotional than ever.

Sometimes he played violently, screaming and shrieking. This has been attributed to the chaotic circumstances of his life from 1977-82, but also reflects the influence men like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy had on him.

Here the alto saxophonist, joined by pianist George Cables, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Eddie Marshall, appears live. The CD consists of four long tracks, and on it Art’s playing leaves plenty to be desired. He plays with plenty of heat, but doesn’t connect his phrases or build, wandering all over the place, and doesn’t display much imagination either.

It’s a shame because the rhythm section cooks like crazy. Formanek digs in and lifts the group and Marshall lays down all kinds of complex polyrhythms which he executes cleanly and powerfully. Cables does an incisive job as an accompanist and takes energetic, Wynton Kelly-like solos.