February 13, 2007

MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME:

Pepper Says a Proper Goodbye (WILL FRIEDWALD, February 13, 2007, NY Sun)

The great bebop alto saxophonist Art Pepper (1925-82) began playing the song [Goodbye], which was written by Gordon Jenkins, during his "comeback" in the late 1970s. Although Pepper never included it on a studio session, "Goodbye" was a famous part of his classic 1977 live album from the Village Vanguard. It's also the centerpiece of a new two-CD set, "Unreleased Art, Vol. 1: The Complete Abashiri Concert, November, 22, 1981" (www.straightlife. info).

Pepper's resurgence lasted from about 1975 -- the year he turned 50 and rid himself of a nearly 25-year addiction to heroin -- to his death in June 1982. Perhaps out of a desire to make up for lost time (some of which, including large portions of the 1960s, was spent behind bars), Pepper recorded a lifetime's worth of music in his final seven years; so far at least 30 albums of studio and live performances have been issued, mostly posthumously in the compact disc era.

I never met Pepper, but he seems to have been like most ex-junkies whom I've known: Once they get off the stuff, they can't stop talking about it. It's almost as if venting their spleen about using dope becomes a substitute for actually using it. Pepper most famously talked about it in his brilliant autobiography, "Straight Life," which was co-written by his third wife (and eventual widow), Laurie Pepper, who has devoted the last 25 years to issuing CDs of previously unreleased material, maintaining a Web site, and even independently producing a narrative feature film based on the book.

Most important, Pepper talked about his life experiences in his music.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 13, 2007 7:57 AM
Comments

I love Art Pepper. Even though I don't really aspire to his sound, I bought a "Martin" alto saxophone just like he played in the 50's, just because he played it. Good enough for him, good enough for me.

Posted by: Twn at February 13, 2007 5:24 PM
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