Art Pepper

The latest release by Laurie Pepper of her late husband, alto saxophonist Art Pepper (1925-82), was recorded Sept. 6, 1976, at the Paul Masson Mountain Winery (now called The Mountain Winery) in Saratoga. The hour-long CD captures the afternoon set by Pepper—whom Village Voice writer Gary Giddins called “the great white bebopper”—and his Bay Area sidemen: Smith Dobson, piano; Jim Nichols, bass; and Brad Bilhorn, drums. Pepper’s coruscating tone dominates the first track, a blazing version of the Juan Tizol classic “Caravan,” on which he skitters around the theme for 90 seconds before digging into the tune. Pepper excelled at fast tempos and he doesn’t pull any punches here; ditto Dobson, who proves himself Pepper’s equal. Pepper loved ballads, too, and “Here’s That Rainy Day” was a favorite. Taken at a very relaxed tempo, it shows his gentler side; Dobson’s solo is so remarkable that an emotional Pepper says, “It got to me; that’s what people are talking about when they say ‘jazz’.” “What Laurie Likes” is a funkified number that he liked to play for dancers. “Straight Life” (also the title of his 1979 autobiography) is more high-speed goods. Pepper’s subsequent East Coast tour brought him back into a well-deserved spotlight and he recorded a batch of LPs that further established his reputation.