“Art Pepper began his career in the 1940s, playing with Benny Carter and Stan Kenton (1946-52). By the 1950s Pepper was recognized as one of the leading alto saxophonists in jazz, epitomized by his finishing second only to Charlie Parker as Best Alto Saxophonist in the Down Beat magazine Readers Poll of 1952. Along with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Shelly Manne, and perhaps due more to geography than playing style, Pepper is often associated with the musical movement known as West Coast jazz, as contrasted with the East Coast (or “hot”) jazz associated with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Pepper was a member of Buddy Rich’s Big Band from 1968-69, and in 1977 and 1978 made two well received tours of Japan.
Perhaps most famous for his recurring legal transgressions, stemming from his addiction to heroin, Pepper had several memorable and productive “comebacks” throughout his career. Remarkably, his substance abuse and legal travails did not affect the quality of his recordings, which maintained a high level of musicianship throughout his career until his death from a brain hemorrhage.
Pepper lived for many years in the hills of Echo Park, in Los Angeles. He had become a heroin addict in the 1940s, and his career was interrupted by drug-related prison sentences from 1954-56; 1960-61; 1961-64 and 1964-65; the final two sentences in San Quentin. In the late 1960s Pepper spent time in Synanon, a drug rehabilitation group.”
Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section is a 1957 jazz album by saxophonist Art Pepper playing with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, who at the time were the rhythm section for Miles Davis’s quintet.
According to legend, the album was recorded under enormous pressure: Pepper first learnt of it on the morning of the recording session, had never met the other musicians (though he admired them all), hadn’t played for two weeks (according to the liner notes) or six months (according to Pepper’s autobiography Straight Life), was playing on an instrument in a bad state of repair, and was suffering from a drug problem. (This story is clearly unreliable: the discography in Straight Life reveals, for instance, that he had recorded many sessions in the previous weeks, including one just five days before.) Whatever the truth of the recording’s circumstances, it is considered a milestone in Pepper’s career, and launched a series of albums for Les Koenig’s Contemporary label which remain the cornerstone of Pepper’s recorded work.
The photograph on the cover of the album was taken on Baxter St. in Echo Park (less than a block from where I used to live!), while Pepper was waiting for his heroin dealer. I think he had just been released from jail earlier that day, or the day before. Rock ‘n’ Roll!
Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
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