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The Discovery Sessions

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Album Review

Most of Art Pepper's first three studio dates as a leader are represented in this compilation, though a few previously issued alternate takes are omitted. The first date finds the alto saxophonist in fine form, leading a quartet consisting of pianist Hampton Hawes, bassist Joe Mondragon, and drummer Larry Bunker. Pepper primarily sticks to originals, though he offers a warm rendition of the standard "These Foolish Things" as well. Pepper sounds a little more adventurous on the second date, accompanied by pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Bob Whitlock, and drummer Bobby White. Two takes of "Chili Pepper" (a Latin-flavored reworking of the venerable "Tea for Two"), two versions of the rapid-fire "Suzy the Poodle" (based upon "[Back Home Again In] Indiana"), a lush arrangement of the ballad "Everything Happens to Me," and a swinging performance of Lester Young's "Tickle Toe" (which incorporates cornetist Bix Beiderbecke's tag from the recording of Paul Whiteman's "When") make up this session. Tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose obviously stimulates Pepper on the third date; the rhythm section is made up of pianist Claude Williamson, bassist Monty Budwig, and either Paul Vallerina or Larry Bunker on drums. The two versions of "Nutmeg" (yet another variation of "I Got Rhythm") find the two reedmen playing off one another with finesse, along with brief solos by Williamson and Budwig. The saxmen also shine in a somewhat brisk take of the standard "Deep Purple" and the two takes of Bob Haggart's lovely "What's New?" The title to the frenetic "Straight Life" is a bit ironic, given Pepper's battle with narcotics abuse, but it is one of the most provocative selections of this compilation. Completists may grouse about the missing (and viable) alternate takes, but the sound restoration on this Savoy reissue is head and shoulders above earlier editions of this valuable music.


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,...
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The Discovery Sessions, Art Pepper
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