ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman (11 Tracks)

by Art Pepper

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These are specific tracks I talk about in my memoir. I figure most people are like me, they want to see pictures of the people named in books (so I've got lots of pictures) and they want to hear the music, too. And, like me, they might be a little lazy and not want to ramble through the internet, looking for these specific pictures and tracks. So here's a selection just for readers, just for reference. (All tracks but one were beautifully, professionally recorded, & I've licensed them from the companies that own them).


released May 27, 2014

With George Cables, Stanley Cowell, Milcho Leviev, Hampton Hawes, Charlie Haden, David Williams, Cecil McBee, Bob Magnusson, Shelly Manne, Carl Burnett, Gary Frommer



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Track Name: What's New? by Haggart-Burke
From the Memoir:
Like the princess in the fairy tale, Art wept diamonds, pearls.
Track Name: Ophelia
From the Memoir:
It's a composition that illustrates Art’s genius for a dramatic structured
narrative and embodies, in the actual chart, as no standard could,
all Art’s morphing ambiguities of mood, his subtlety, mystery,
and sweetness, his solid, swinging funkiness, and the chaos in
his rage. It also maps the full range of his musical experience,
from blues and swing to bebop and beyond, his evolution as an
artist. Before I heard “Ophelia,” I’d based my respect for Art on
the opinions of others and then on the effect on me of his beauty
and swing. Now Art’s music was teaching me how to listen and
what to listen for.
Track Name: Samba Mom Mom
From the Memoir: spite of its title, not a samba, but (as Shelly pointed out) a “Latinish, islandy” piece of rollicking whimsicality that, likewise, pulled you from your
chair and made you jump and wiggle. The two and a half years
of playing tenor for dancing in Synanon (“Watermelon Man” and
funky simple stuff like that) had pushed Art away from what I’ve
always considered the bebop head-trip and back to his rowdy,
crowd-pleasing roots on Central Avenue where music had to do
with dancing, with the body’s response to the beat of the blood.
Track Name: Goodbye by Gordon Jenkins
From the Memoir:
If there is any track on any album that sums up the beauty
and power of Art’s triumphant soul, his gift, it’s the “Goodbye”
he played that night and dedicated to his old friend, Hampton
Hawes, who’d just died. For me it’s the strongest and most
passionate performance he ever gave.
I’ve heard Art tell an audience that playing jazz was like
an exorcism. He summoned up his demons to demolish them.
He mined his pain, confusion, desperation, anger, grief (also his
passion, tenderness, and joy), to triumph in his music. He used
his emotional past, hectic present, and his terrible fears and wild
hopes about the future to connect with his listeners. He gave
form to their feeling. He was an artist, and he won the battle
every time. He won it at the Vanguard.
Track Name: Patricia
From the Memoir:
During a break, Stanley was fooling around at the piano and
he started playing a gorgeous ballad. A few people looked up,
because it was so pretty. Art, in all innocence, remarked that it
was really nice, what was it? He probably hadn’t listened to it for
more than thirty years. When Stanley said that it was Art’s tune,
“Patricia” (written for his daughter), and offered that he liked it,
Art decided to play it.
They all went back into the studio. Art suggested that
they do just a bluesy sort of coda, a long tag at the end. He
looked dubiously at the guys, not sure whether they knew what
he was talking about. They played the tune, and then Cecil
McBee, the bassist, carried them into a gorgeous, funky, perfect
ending. They finished, came into the studio, listened to the
playback. Wow. Impressed silence.
Roy Haynes broke it. To Art: “Where did you say you
were from?”
Art: “Gardena, California.”
Roy: “Is that South Gardena?”
Track Name: Patricia (live Atlanta)
From the Memoir:
I have some live examples ontape (one, especially, recorded in Atlanta, 1980) that are just asgood. On the Atlanta tape I have Art’s remarks, verbatim, to the audience, when he concluded that performance, thanking themfor their applause and cheers:
“It’s really, uh. Ohhh. Oh, music is so beautiful. I almost
cried during that song. It was just so beautiful, and that everyone
was following where we were going with it... It’s a whole, a
whole life happening in that song. It’s great that you feel what’s
happening. And that’s all I can say; that’s it.” Then his voice
breaks when he adds, “That’s jazz.”
Track Name: Our Song
From the Memoir:
Winter Moon got great reviews. (Well, Art never got bad
ones. The critics, worldwide, either liked or loved him. Remarks
on his performances and recordings ranged from “darkly lyrical”
and “brilliantly crisp” to “demon jazz god” and “celestial.”) Art
said, in the documentary Don McGlynn made about him, that
Winter Moon was the best album he’d ever made, that “Our
Song” was the most beautiful song he’d ever written, and that his
solo on that tune was the best solo he’d ever recorded.
Track Name: The Prisoner by Lawrence, Desautels
From the Memoir:
I spat into his ear, “It stinks! It’s weak. It’s terrible. You’ve gotta give it more.”
He groaned to me about the stupid, useless chart, saying that
he’d done the best he could. But he went in for one last try.
A jazz soloist, especially a guy like Art, is, first of all,
a listener. Ask any band he ever played with. His art is to work
“in concert” with the arrangement and the other players, and
to comment on and build on what the music’s saying, creating
something new and individual, yet still harmonious. He must
complete the piece. And good musicians, playing with him, live,
would be inspired by him, by what he was creating, and rise to
the occasion. But in this case, and despite the live setting, the
musicians couldn’t follow him. The chart they had to play was
written: set and static.
Who knows what mental trick Art used to wrench himself
away from an improvising jazzman’s lifelong understanding and
to rise above it? But he did it. He dragged himself out of the
quicksand of that chart, ignoring it, at last, relying just on what
he heard inside. It sounded as if he was ripping his own guts out
in the studio. He was magnificent, and when he heard the take he
knew it. He loved it. And I still love to listen to it.
A friend recently talked about good black gospel
churches, how they sometimes have nurses, even ambulances
there for people who, through the preaching and singing, are
kayoed by the Spirit. Art could blast you just that way, and he
does it for a while, if you’re at all susceptible, when he plays
“The Prisoner” on Winter Moon.
Track Name: When You're Smiling by Shay, Fisher, Goodwin
From the Memoir:
“I’m not done yet,” we all heard Art say. “I got more
time. I want to play another song.”
The audience began a chant of “more!”
“I’m not finished,” Art repeated. “I want to play just one
more song.”
They’d made a mistake. Some of “our” time had been
taken up by festival announcements. Art walked to the wings,
again pointing at his watch. The audience was getting mad,
but the invisible personage persuaded Art to end his set. Art
walked back to center stage, asked the audience to take the
disappointment graciously as he would try to do. He thanked
them all and said goodbye.
“When You’re Smiling” was the last song he ever played.
He played it on the clarinet, on his first horn, in his youngest
voice, and said he wasn’t done. Nine days later Art was in a
coma. Six days after that he died.
Track Name: Goin' Home A. Dvořák (arr. G. Cables)
From the Memoir:
Ed Michel did what I asked and brought and played the
tapes. We all heard Art play “Goin’ Home.” Home is heaven,
what the soul returns to. “Goin’ Home” is what Art wrote
sometimes at the ends of his charts. It meant go back to the
beginning and then end the song.