Unreleased Art Vol. 2 the Last Concert
Alto saxophonist Art Pepper (1925-1982) shared a lot of similarities with saxman Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, the proto-bebopper. He had a hard attack as well as a soft, lyrical side that surfaced on his ballads. He also had a huge heroin habit that (after some serious prison time) he was able to shake off in Synanon, where he met his soon-to-be wife, Laurie, with whom he got his career back on track. In the conclusion of Straight Life, his searing biography (co-written with Laurie), he says, “I was given a gift.” During his last eight years he utilized that gift to the max as evidenced here, on his last recording, made at the Kennedy Center just 16 days before his death. Accompanied by pianist Roger Kellaway and long-time sidemen, bassist David Williams and drummer Carl Burnett, Pepper et al. work out on three of his favorite originals including “Landscape” (a “flag-waver”). “Over the Rainbow,” another favorite of Pepper’s, gets an especially lovely treatment, as does “When You’re Smiling,” on which he played clarinet—his first instrument. This is the second volume of unreleased music Laurie Pepper has issued on her Widow’s Taste label, with more promised.