Written by 4:29 am Audiophile Music

Pepper and Evans Archive Releases A Joy

Mark Smotroff digs Bill and Art…

With certain kinds of music, it is often a thrill to dig into new releases from the archives, previously unreleased gems which satiate fans as well as — sometimes — adding to the legacy of the artist.  As any good fan of jazz and rock knows, these alternate musics circulating among fans are often an essential complement to the commercial releases. Accordingly, here are some archival jazz CD releases worthy of your attention:

AR-EvansPepper1225.jpgNow, there is something of a long history of recording artists finagling ways to record outside of their label recording deal constraints. Charlie Parker is one of the more legendary names who come to mind, recording more or less simultaneously for both Savoy Records and Dial Records back in the early 1950s.  In the mid 1960s Bill Evans recorded for Hans Georg Bruener’s MPS label (recorded in his “living room” studio) while under contract to another label (the album was eventually released last year; I reviewed it here on Audiophilereview).  More on Bill in a bit…

Legendary Saxophonist Art Pepper pulled off a similar stunt in the 1970s and the recordings were released via a clever contractual twist : he recorded the series of albums not as an official band leader but as a “sideman.”  

Wink wink, nudge nudge…

AR-EvansPepper2225.jpgEach of these albums were recorded for a Japanese label (Atlas Records) beginning in the late 70s when Pepper was under contract to another label. But most fans in-the-know were able to figure it out and in the ensuing years these performances have become beloved spins. These albums were designed to capture the feel of the classic late 50s / early 60s “West Coast Jazz” sound, of which Art and some of his sidemen here were a part of back in the day.

Accordingly, said albums are the focus topic of a new series of Art Pepper reissues out now on Omnivore Records. The label has issued no less than five — count ’em, 5! — Art Pepper albums in the first half of 2017 alone. All are compelling releases for fans of the late great jazz Saxophonist.  

Four volumes of West Coast Sessions each feature a noted collaborator (click each volume number to jump to Amazon for more info on them): Sonny Stitt (Vol. 1), Pete Jolly (Vol.2) Lee Konitz (Vol. 3) and Bill Watrous (Vol. 4). All sound quite wonderful as CDs go, my personal tastes leaning toward the ones with Jolly and Konitz, both of whom I like very much. West Coast Sessions are well worth checking out if you are a fan of Art Pepper or any of his co-band leaders.

AR-EvansPepper3225.jpgThere is also a fine reissue of Pepper’s 1956 release called simply, The Art Pepper Quartet, originally recorded for the Tampa Records label. Copious liner notes from Pepper’s wife Laurie explains the back story behind each of these releases in great detail.

Also new is an unreleased 1976 concert recording of The Bill Evans Trio called On A Monday Evening Live.  Any new music by the late great pianist Bill Evans is a welcome thing and this one is a sweet treat featuring bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund, recorded at Madison, Wisconsin’s Union Theater.  

Ar-PepperQuartet225.jpgMust say, it’s is really interesting hearing Evans playing in someplace other than New York (or France, for that matter) — he did get around!  And, perhaps it’s my imagination, but he seems to stretch out a bit here, even though the recording is relatively short for a live album (about 45 minutes).  Maybe it was just a good night: actually it was and Evans sounds in fine form here.  

I only have heard the CD of this release — which sounds quite nice all things considered — but there is an LP and a high resolution download out there so you might keep an eye out for those if you are an Evans aficionado. Good stuff!

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