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Besame Mucho

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Album Review

Shortly after Art Pepper's death in 1982, JVC Records in Japan began issuing a series of titles of the great saxophonist's performances in Japan. This set, recorded in 1979, was compiled from two different July performances and features the classic Pepper quartet with pianist George Cables, drummer Billy Higgins, and the great Tony Dumas on bass. Pepper played only alto on the dates, and these five tunes offer a portrait of the musician at the very top of his form and very inspired. There are three Pepper originals: "Red Car," "Mambo de la Pinta," and "The Trip," all of which are over nine minutes, buffeted by the set's lone ballad, "The Shadow of Your Smile," and a smoking read of the title track. Only the ballad is on the short side, and the rest give Pepper the opportunity to really stretch himself and interact with Cables, whose fluid scalar approach to soloing, while invoking bop's precision balanced by an abundant lyrical swing, was a perfect vehicle for the saxophonist's intense melodic improvising. This is a welcome addition to the U.S. catalog for fans and a fantastic introduction to Pepper's many gifts for the uninitiated.


Born: 01 September 1925 in Gardena, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Despite a remarkably colorful and difficult life, Art Pepper was quite consistent in the recording studios; virtually every recording he made is well worth getting. In the 1950s he was one of the few altoists (along with Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond) that was able to develop his own sound despite the dominant influence of Charlie Parker. During his last years, Pepper seemed to put all of his life's experiences into his music and he played with startling emotional intensity. After a brief stint with...
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