In 1977, Art Pepper
’s jazz comeback had been moving along pretty quietly, and he was still playing bar mitzvahs and weddings, when producer John Snyder helped engineer the alto saxophonist’s first tour outside California. With soul ablaze, with his defiant wit, and with the musical mastery he’d honed throughout his reckless life, Pepper took his first step onto the world stage at Toronto’s Bourbon Street nightclub on June 16, 1977.
That night’s triumphant performances are documented in the new Widow’s Taste 3-CD set, Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. 10: Toronto
, which will be released November 2. The absolute love with which Toronto
jazz fans greeted him surprised Art and gave him the boost he needed from the very start. And the superb young musicians at this gig were supportive and challenging. He always felt that good musicians had something to teach him, and these fellows all went on to fine careers. During the 30-minute interview with Toronto disc jockey Hal Hill, which is included in the new package, Art praises them, sincerely, especially the pianist, Bernie Senensky
. He enjoyed their youth; the prodigious David Piltch
was only 17. Piltch alternates with the impressive Gene Perla
on bass, and the drummer, Terry Clarke
, seems to have played with every soloist on earth. They solo beautifully. They back him perfectly.
The audio is quite good, thanks, once again, to Wayne Peet’s mastering, which is precise, skilled, and artful. The 32-page booklet includes, along with Laurie Pepper’s photos, gossip, opinions, and flights of musically inspired fancy, her chart of problems she heard in the original recordings and Wayne’s notes describing all the additional problems Laurie didn’t hear—and his work correcting them.
And there’s more. In honor of this, the tenth release from her label Widow’s Taste, Laurie offers us a backstage pass, “How to Turn a 40-Year-Old Cassette Tape into a Valuable Collector’s Item.” She shows us why and how, “in this age of off-brand-indie-DIY,” she manages, with help, to keep finding and releasing this great music. She says, “My jewel boxes hold real jewels.”
Fifty-one at the time of these recordings, Art had been struggling, as an artist, to merge the solid swing and shuffle of the blues he’d made his own at age 15 on Central Avenue with the tender lyricism of his nature, with the fire and excitement of bebop, and with the adventurousness of John Coltrane
and Miles Davis
. John Snyder, producer and fan, underwrote and ran this East Coast tour—which culminated in Pepper’s Village Vanguard debut—to help him do it.
Snyder’s encouragement can’t be underrated. Neither can Pepper’s courage. When young, as a starring soloist, Art had toured the country with Stan Kenton’s big bands. But later, multiple incarcerations for drug use and subsequent paroles limited his movements. When he was working, he could only work at home in California. And part of Art, the part that was not self-destructive, was profoundly competitive and ambitious. Here was his first tour as a leader, and he knew this was his moment.
This latest album joins the catalog of previous albums from the Unreleased Art Pepper
series. All have received raves from well-known critics. They are:
- Volume I, Abashiri (2-CD set)
- Volume II, Last Concert: Kennedy Center
- Volume III, Croydon (2-CD set)
- Volume IV, The Art History Project (3-CD set)
- Volume V, Stuttgart (2-CD set)
- Volume VI, Blues for the Fisherman: Live at Ronnie Scott’s (4-CD set)
- Volume VII, Sankei Hall, Osaka (2-CD set)
- Volume VIII, Live at the Winery
- Volume IX, Art Pepper & Warne Marsh
All (except Volume IV
, which is available for download only) are available at both Amazon
and CD Baby
. Laurie says she’ll keep releasing yearly miracles as long as she keeps finding them. She says there are still plenty in her closets. Maybe, in 2019, a ballad set? Yes, maybe.