Art Pepper Quintet
Arthur Edward Pepper Jr. (September 1, 1925 – June 15, 1982) was an American alto saxophonist and very occasional tenor saxophonist and clarinetist. A longtime figure in West coast jazz, Pepper came to prominence in Stan Kenton's big band. He was known for his emotionally charged performances and several stylistic shifts throughout his career, and was described by critic Scott Yanow as "the world's great altoist" at the time of his death.
Art Pepper was born in Gardena, California, on September 1, 1925. His mother was a 14-year-old runaway; his father, a merchant seaman. Both were violent alcoholics, and when Art was still quite young he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother. He expressed early musical interest and talent, and he was given lessons. He began playing clarinet at nine, switched to alto saxophone at 13 and immediately began jamming on Central Avenue, the black nightclub district of Los Angeles.
At the age of 17 he began playing professionally with Benny Carter and then became part of the Stan Kenton orchestra, touring with that band until he was drafted in 1943. After the war he returned to Los Angeles and joined the Kenton Innovations Orchestra. By the 1950s Pepper was recognized as one of the leading alto saxophonists in jazz, 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 of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Some of Pepper's most famous albums from the 1950s are Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics, Gettin' Together, and Smack Up. Representative music from this time appears on The Aladdin Recordings (three volumes), The Early Show, The Late Show, The Complete Surf Ride, and The Way It Was!, which features a session recorded with Warne Marsh.
His career was repeatedly interrupted by several prison stints stemming from his addiction to heroin, but Pepper managed to have several memorable and productive "comebacks". 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 in 1982.
His last comeback saw Pepper, who had started his career in Stan Kenton's big band, becoming a member of Buddy Rich's Big Band from 1968 to 1969. During the mid-1970s and early 1980s he toured Europe and Japan with his own groups and recorded dozens of albums, mostly for Fantasy Records.
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 in 1954–56, 1960–61, 1961–64 and 1964–65; the final two sentences were served in San Quentin. While in San Quentin he played in an ensemble with saxophonist Frank Morgan. In the late 1960s Pepper spent time in Synanon, a drug rehabilitation group.
After beginning methadone therapy in the mid-1970s, Art had a musical comeback and recorded a series of albums including Living Legend, Art Pepper Today, Among Friends, and Live in Japan: Vol. 2.
His autobiography, Straight Life (1980, co-written with his third wife Laurie Pepper), discusses the jazz music world, as well as drug and criminal subcultures of mid-20th century California. Soon after the publication of this book, the director Don McGlynn released the documentary film Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz Survivor, discussing his life and featuring interviews with both Art and his wife Laurie, as well as footage from a live performance in Malibu jazz club. Laurie Pepper also released an interview to NPR.
Pepper died of a stroke in Los Angeles on June 15, 1982, aged 56. He is interred in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood.
- 1951 Popo (Xanadu, 1980) with Shorty Rogers
- 1952 The Early Show (Xanadu, 1976; reissued as A Night at the Surf Club, Vol. 1)
- 1952 The Late Show (Xanadu, 1980; reissued as A Night at the Surf Club, Vol. 2)
- 1952-54 Surf Ride (Savoy)
- 1952-54 Two Altos (Regent) shared album with Sonny Red
- 1956 The Return of Art Pepper with Jack Sheldon (Jazz: West)
- 1956 Playboys (Pacific Jazz) with Chet Baker and Phil Urso - also released as Picture of Heath
- 1956 The Art Pepper Quartet (Tampa)
- 1956 Art Pepper with Warne Marsh (Contemporary)
- 1957 Collections (Intro) with Red Norvo, Joe Morello and Gerry Wiggins
- 1956-57 Modern Art (Intro)
- 1957 Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (Contemporary)
- 1957 Mucho Calor (Andex) with Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins, Russ Freeman, Ben Tucker, Chuck Flores, Jack Costanzo and Mike Pacheko
- 1959 Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics (Contemporary)
- 1960 Gettin' Together with Conte Candoli (Contemporary)
- 1960 Smack Up with Jack Sheldon (Contemporary)
- 1960 Intensity (Contemporary)
- 1964 Art Pepper Quartet in San Francisco (1964) [live] (Fresh Sound)
- 1968 Art Pepper Quintet : Live at Donte's 1968 (1968) [live] with Joe Romano (Fresh Sound)
- 1975 Garden State Jam Sessions [live] Bootleg (Lone Hill Jazz)
- 1975 I'll Remember April : Live at Foothill College (Storyville)
- 1975 Living Legend (Contemporary)
- 1976 The Trip (Contemporary)
- 1977 A Night in Tunisia [live] (Storyville)
- 1977 Tokyo Debut [live] (Galaxy) - also released as First Live in Japan
- 1977 No Limit (Contemporary)
- 1977 Thursday Night at the Village Vanguard [live] (Contemporary)
- 1977 Friday Night at the Village Vanguard [live] (Contemporary)
- 1977 Saturday Night at the Village Vanguard [live] (Contemporary)
- 1977 More for Les at the Village Vanguard [live] (Contemporary)
- 1977 San Francisco Samba [live] (Contemporary)
- 1978 Live in Japan, Vol. 1: Ophelia (Storyville)
- 1978 Live in Japan, Vol. 2 (Storyville)
- 1978 Among Friends (Interplay)
- 1978 Art Pepper Today (Galaxy)
- 1979 New York Album (Galaxy) - released 1985
- 1979 So in Love (Artists House)
- 1979 Artworks (Galaxy) - released 1984
- 1979 Stardust (Victor [Japan]) - released 1985
- 1979 Tokyo Encore [live] (Dreyfus)
- 1979 Landscape [live] (Galaxy)
- 1979 Besame Mucho [live] (Galaxy)
- 1979 Straight Life (Galaxy)
- 1980 Winter Moon with Howard Roberts (Galaxy)
- 1980 One September Afternoon (Galaxy)
- 1980 Blues for the Fisherman with Milcho Leviev Live at Ronnie Scott's London. (TAA/Mole)
- 1981 Art Pepper with Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 [live] (Galaxy) with Duke Jordan
- 1981 Roadgame [live] (Galaxy)
- 1981 Art Lives [live] (Galaxy)
- 1981 APQ [live] (Galaxy)
- 1981 Arthur's Blues [live] (Galaxy)
- 1981 Art 'n' Zoot [live] (Pablo) with Zoot Sims - released 1995
- 1982 Darn That Dream (Real Time)
- 1982 Tête-à-Tête (Galaxy) with George Cables
- 1982 Goin' Home (Galaxy) with George Cables
- 1991 Art in L.A. (WestWind) - 2-CD set of two different sessions in 1957 and 1960.
- 2006 Summer Knows (Absord) - Japanese release from earlier sessions
- 2006-12 Unreleased Art, vols. 1–6. (Widow's Taste)
With Chet Baker
- The Route with Richie Kamuca (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
- Chet Baker Big Band (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
- Playboys with Phil Urso (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
With Jerry Fielding
- The Gauntlet (Soundtrack) (Warner Bros., 1977)
With Jack Nitzsche
- Heart Beat (Soundtrack) (Capitol, 1980)
As a sideman
- 1940–54 The Kenton Era (with Stan Kenton – Capitol
- 1943–47 Stan Kenton's Milestones (with Stan Kenton) – Capitol
- 1944–47 Stan Kenton Classics (with Stan Kenton) – Capitol
- 1947 A Presentation of Progressive Jazz, Encores (with Stan Kenton) – Capitol
- 1950 Innovations in Modern Music, Stan Kenton Presents (with Stan Kenton) – Capitol
- 1950–51 The Innovations Orchestra (with Stan Kenton) Capitol, 1950–51 
- 1951 Modern Sounds (with Shorty Rogers) - Capitol
- 1953 Popular Favorites by Stan Kenton, This Modern World (with Stan Kenton) – Capitol
- 1953 The West Coast Sound (with Shelly Manne & His Men) – Contemporary
- 1953 Shorty Rogers and His Giants and Cool and Crazy (with Shorty Rogers) – RCA Victor
- 1956 Hoagy Sings Carmichael (with Hoagy Carmichael) – Pacific Jazz
- 1956 The Marty Paich Quartet featuring Art Pepper (with Marty Paich) – Tampa/VSOP
- 1959 Mr. Easy (with Jesse Belvin) – RCA
- 1959 Lady Lonely (with Toni Harper) – RCA
- 1959 Herb Ellis Meets Jimmy Giuffre (with Herb Ellis and Jimmy Giuffre) – Verve
- 1959 Cool Heat (with Anita O'Day - Verve
- 1959 Some Like It Hot (with Barney Kessel) – Contemporary
- 1960 The Subterraneans (Soundtrack) (with André Previn) – MGM
- 1960 The Swingin' Nutcracker (Shorty Rogers) RCA Victor
- 1960 Night Mood (with Toni Harper) – RCA
- 1968 Mercy, Mercy (with Buddy Rich Big Band) – Pacific Jazz
- 1976 On the Road (Art Farmer) – Contemporary
- 1979 California Hard (with Dolo Coker and Blue Mitchell) Xanadu
- 1978: Birds and Ballads (Johnny Griffin)
- 1979 Very R.A.R.E. (with Elvin Jones) Trio (Japan)
- 1980 Blues for the Fisherman (with Milcho Leviev) – [Live] Mole
- 1980 True Blues (with Milcho Leviev) – [Live] Mole
- 1981 Mistral (with Freddie Hubbard)
- 1982 Richie Cole and... Return to Alto Acres (with Richie Cole) – Palo Alto
- Jazz Styles and Analysis: Alto Sax by Harry Miedema. Chicago, Fifth Printing, Feb . 1979. Includes Broadway.
- Straight Life: the Story of Art Pepper by Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper. New York and London, 1979. ISBN 0-02-871820-8. Includes the head of Straight Life.
- Jazz 2: Sax Alto. Transcribed by John Robert Brown. International Music Publications, Woodford Green, Essex, 1986. ISBN 0-86359-408-5. Includes 'Round Midnight.
- The Genius of Art Pepper. Foreword by Laurie Pepper. North Sydney, Warner/Chappell Music, 1987. ISBN 1-86362-012-5. Includes: Arthur's Blues; Blues for Blanche; Funny Blues; Landscape; Make a List Make a Wish; Mambo de la Pinta; Mambo Koyama; Mr Big Falls his J.G. Hand; Our Song; Road Game; September Song; Tete a Tete. All transcriptions include parts for Alto and Rhythm; Funny Blues also has a part for Trumpet.
- Masters of the Alto Saxophone Play The Blues. Jazz Alto Solos. Transcribed by Trent Kynaston and Jonathan Ball. Corybant Productions, 1990. Includes True Blues.
- The Art Pepper Collection. Foreword by Jeff Sultanof. Milwaukee, Hal Leonard, 1995. ISBN 0-7935-4007-0. Includes: Art's Oregano; Diane; Landscape; Las Cuevas de Mario; Make a List (Make a Wish); Mr. Big Falls his J.G. Hand; Ophelia; Pepper Returns; Sometime; Straight Life; Surf Ride(I); Surf Ride(II); That's Love; The Trip; Waltz Me Blues.
- West Coast Jazz Saxophone Solos transcribed and edited by Robert A. Luckey, Ph.D. Features 15 recorded solos from 1952–1961, including five solos by Art Pepper. Olympia Music Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-9667047-1-1.
Transcriptions available on the Internet:
- Birk's Works
- Groovin' High
- Red Pepper Blues
- Star Eyes
- The Way You Look Tonight
- Too Close For Comfort
- What Is This Thing Called Love?
- You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
Pepper's most famous composition is probably "Straight Life". Composed long before the autobiography of the same title was published, it features the jagged lines he typically played and was typically played at a breakneck tempo. It was recorded numerous times by Pepper, both in his "early" period and his "later" years. Perhaps the most famous version was included on the 1957 Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section.
His other compositions include: "The Trip", "Red Car", "Gettin' Together", "Ol' Croix", "Tynan Time", "Minor Yours", "Diane", "Blues at Twilight", "Bijou the Poodle", "Pepper Pot", "Val's Pal", "Chili Pepper", "Art's Opus", "Brown Gold", "Zenobia", "Angel Wings", "Junior Cat", "Pepper Steak", "Straight Life", "Tenor Blooz", "Walkin' Out Blues", "Patricia", "Five More", "Minority", "Mambo de la Pinta", "Surf Ride", "Las Cuevas De Mario", "Our Song", "Among Friends", "That's Love", "Waltz Me Blues", "Labyrinth", "Make A List", "Pepper Returns", "True Blues", "Landscape", "Miss Who", "Mambo Koyama", "Ophelia", "Lost Life", "Dynaflow" with Stan Kenton and "Funny Blues".
A more extensive bibliography is issued by the Jazzinstitut Darmstadt
- 1956 Art Pepper... Tells the Tragic Role Narcotics Played in Blighting His Career and Life by John Tynan. Downbeat, September 19, 1956, p. 16.
- 1957 Art Pepper Quartet by John Tynan. Downbeat, May 16, 1957, p. 34.
- 1960 Art Pepper: Profile of a Comeback by J. McKinney. Metronome, lxxvii, September 1960, p. 26.
- 1960 The Return of Art Pepper by John Tynan. Downbeat, xxvii/8, 1960, p. 17.
- 1960 End of the Road by John Tynan. Downbeat, xxvii/25, 1960, p. 13.
- 1964 Art Pepper's not the Same by John Tynan. Downbeat, xxxi/22, 1964, p. 18.
- 1965 "Jazz Discographies Unlimited" Presents "Art Pepper". A Complete Discography Compiled by Ernie Edwards, Jr. Ernie Edwards Jr. et al. Jazz Discographies Unlimited, Spotlight Series, Vol. 4. Oct . 1965. 22pp.
- 1973 Art Pepper: 'I'm Here to Stay!' by C. Marra. Downbeat, xl/4, 1973, p. 16.
- 1975 Pepper's Painful Road to Pure Art by L. Underwood. Downbeat, xlii/11, 1975, p. 16.
- 1979 Straight Life: the Story of Art Pepper by Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper. New York and London, 1979. ISBN 0-02-871820-8. Includes a discography.
- 1979 Art Pepper: Rewards of the Straight Life by P. Welding. Downbeat, xlvi/18, 1979, p. 16.
- 1979 The Contemporary Art of Pepper by Chris Sheridan. Jazz Journal International, Vol. 32, No. 9, September 1979, p. 9.
- 1979 The evolution of an individualist; Interview with Les Tomkins.
- 1980 Art Pepper. Swing Journal, xxxiv/1, 1980, p. 162.
- 1980 At Ronnie's; Interview with Les Tomkins.
- 1980 A rich past, and a bright future; Interview with Les Tomkins.
- 1981 New Fields Still to Conquer; Interview with Les Tomkins.
- 1981 The Whiteness of the Wail by Gary Giddins, in Riding on a Blue Note. New York, O.U.P., 1981, pp. 252–257. (An article originally published in July 1977.)
- 1986 Art Pepper: I Want to Play so Bad by David Nicholson Pepperell. Wire Magazine, Issue 28, June 1986, pp. 26–31.
- 1986 Art Pepper, 1926-1982 by Gary Giddins, in Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation in the 80s. New York, O.U.P., 1986, pp. 106–108. (An article originally published in June 1982.)
- 1992 Straight Life by Ted Gioia, in West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960. New York and Oxford, O.U.P., 1992, pp. 283–307 (Chapter Fourteen). ISBN 0-19-508916-2.
- 2000 The Art Pepper Companion: Writings on a Jazz Original by Todd Selbert. Cooper Square Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-8154-1067-6.
- 2014* ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman" by Laurie Pepper. Arthur Pepper Music Corporation ISBN 978-1494-297572
- 2014* The Tale of the Tape by Lili Anolik. Harper's Magazine
- Slonimsky, Nicolas; Theodore Baker (1992). Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition. New York, New York: Schirmer Books.
- Yannow, Scott. Art Pepper Biography from Allmusic.com, accessed 12 September 2016
- Dupuis, Robert. "Art Pepper." Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music. Vol. 18. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1997. 164-67. Print.
- "Frank Morgan On Piano Jazz". NPR.org. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- Straight Life: The Story Of Art Pepper by Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper, Da Capo Press (reprint of original 1979 book published by Schirmer Books, a division of MacMillan Publishing).
- "Movie Review : Tales of Jazz Saxophonists". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- Giddins, Gary (October 19, 2000). "Rhythm-a-ning: Jazz Tradition And Innovation". Da Capo Press. Retrieved July 30, 2017 – via Google Books.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Art Pepper.|
- Art Pepper at Find a Grave
- Straight Life – The Stories of Art Pepper
- The Art Pepper Discography Project
- NPR Interview With Laurie Pepper
- MikeL's Unofficial Art Pepper website
- Robert Pinsky's poem "The Hearts" (1990) contains a reference to Art Pepper and Straight Life: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49018/the-hearts