Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings Art Pepper

Album info



Label: Omnivore Recordings

Genre: Jazz

Subgenre: Hard Bob

Artist: Art Pepper

Album including Album cover

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  • 1Straight, No Chaser (Take 3)06:23
  • 2Blues For Blanche06:47
  • 3So In Love11:31
  • 4Diane12:18
  • 5Stardust10:33
  • 6Yesterdays ((Take 2) [Bonus Track])08:13
  • 7Landscape (Bonus Track)09:28
  • 8Straight, No Chaser ((Take 4) [Bonus Track])08:07
  • 9Body And Soul04:40
  • 10Anthropology (Take 2)06:36
  • 11Desafinado (Take 2)08:04
  • 12Donna Lee05:59
  • 13You Got To My Head06:02
  • 14Blues For Blanche (Alternate A)07:30
  • 15Desafinado ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])11:25
  • 16Anthropology ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])05:53
  • 17Donna Lee ((Alternate A) [Bonus Track])06:12
  • 18Blues For Blanche ((Alternate B) [Bonus Track])08:16
  • 19You Go To My Head ((Alternate A) [Bonus Track])04:22
  • 20A Night in Tunisia (Take 2)09:47
  • 21Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be)05:43
  • 22Straight, No Chaser (Take 2)05:58
  • 23Duo Blues07:54
  • 24My Friend John09:43
  • 25Johnny's Blues05:17
  • 26A Night In Tunisia ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])08:48
  • 27Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be) [Clarinet] [Bonus Track]03:14
  • 28Straight, No Chaser ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])06:16
  • 29My Friend John ((Alternate B) [Bonus Track])07:23
  • 30My Friend John (Alternate A)07:48
  • 31Tin Tin Deo11:05
  • 32Stardust (Alternate A)08:43
  • 33In A Mellow Tone (Take 2)08:36
  • 34Art's Sweet Blues (Bonus Track)03:54
  • 35But Beautiful ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])03:21
  • 36You Go To My Head ((Alternate B) [Bonus Track])02:56
  • 37Yesterdays ((Take 3) [Bonus Track])07:06
  • 38Stardust ((Alternate B) [Bonus Track])12:13
  • 39In A Mellow Tone ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])10:06
  • 40Blues For Blanche ((Alternate C) [Bonus Track])06:16
  • 41Yesterdays ((Take 1) [Bonus Track])07:38
  • 42My Friend John ((Take 1 - Long False Start) [Bonus Track])05:34
  • 43My Friend John ((Take 2 - False Start) [Bonus Track])02:00
  • 44Blues For Blanche ((Alternate D) [Bonus Track])06:03
  • 45Stardust ((Long False Start) [Bonus Track])04:17
  • 46Donna Lee ((Alternate B) [Bonus Track])07:30
  • 47But Beautiful ((Take 2) [Bonus Track])03:51
  • 48A Night In Tunisia ((Take 3) [Bonus Track])09:34
  • 49Blues For Blanche ((Alternate E) [Bonus Track])06:47
  • 50Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be) [Alternate Sax Take] [Bonus Track]05:21
  • Total Runtime05:59:01

Info for Promise Kept: The Complete Artists House Recordings

Producer Snyder had long wished to record Pepper, and to that end, booked him into a week at the Village Vanguard in New York. But the sax man was under contract to Contemporary Records, whose head Les Koenig opted to record the stint himself. Pepper, however, remained committed to recording for Snyder, the result of which was four albums recorded in 1979 and released in the ensuing years.

The four albums comprising The Complete Artists House Recordings feature Pepper’s takes on numerous jazz standards including “Stardust,” “Straight No Chaser,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “Body and Soul,” “You Go to My Head,” and “Desafinado.” All albums have all been remastered and expanded for this release, while an additional 11 session takes appear on a bonus album. In total, 19 bonus tracks are spread across the set, some of which have appeared on compilations and some of which appear for the first time.

“Art Pepper had had a brilliant career as a jazz soloist and band leader until the mid-1950s when he started using heroin,” writes Pepper’s widow, Laurie Pepper, in the box set’s liner notes. “After that, incarcerations and treatments in prisons and hospitals kept him off the stages and out of the studios. He was only able to record sporadically until he got (relatively) sober in Synanon in 1972, and married — me. Then, in the last ten years of his life, he composed, recorded, and toured more ambitiously than ever before, focused on securing his place among the true jazz greats — where he knew he belonged.” Laurie Pepper has also furnished Omnivore with rare photographs of the sessions for inclusion in this collection.

As for the title Promise Kept, Laurie Pepper recalls, “John and Art both kept their promises. John brought Art into the wider world; he put him on the road. Just as he said he would, he brought him to New York and to the Village Vanguard, got his picture in the papers, got him on the radio. From Art, John got his dearest wish. He made these 32 recordings.”

Art Pepper, alto saxophone, clarinet
George Cables, piano
Hank Jones, piano
Ron Carter, bass
Charlie Haden, bass
Al Foster, drums
Billy Higgins, drums

Digitally remastered

Art Pepper
born in Gardena, California on September 1, 1925 and raised in nearby San Pedro, began playing clarinet at age 9 and, by 15, was performing in Lee Young’s band at the Club Alabam on Central Avenue, the home of jazz in prewar Los Angeles.

He joined Stan Kenton’s band, touring the U.S. and gaining fame, but was drafted in 1943 serving as an MP in London and performing with some British jazz bands. He returned to the States and to Kenton, touring and recording. In 1952 he placed second only to Charlie Parker in the Down Beat jazz poll. Probably his most famous recording from that period is his stunning performance of “Art Pepper,” written by Shorty Rogers (as part of a series of charts Kenton had commissioned to feature members of his band).

Art left Stan Kenton in 1951 to form his own group, occasionally recording for Rogers and others. He signed with Contemporary Records in 1957.

From the beginning Art’s playing combined a tender delicacy of tone with a purity of narrative line—a gift for storytelling that was made irresistible by an inherent, dancing, shouting, moaning inability to ever stop swinging.

He was one of the few alto players to resist the style and tone of Charlie Parker. What he failed to resist was the lure of drugs, ubiquitous, at that time, among jazz musicians. And although some users managed to get through and over their addictions, Art, survivor of a rocky childhood (alcoholic neglectful mother, alcoholic violent father), unbalanced from the get-go, never did quite triumph over his, though he may have fought them to a draw.

So, in 1952, he began a long series of hospitalizations and incarcerations for violations of the drug laws of his time—possession, internal possession (“marks”), and then for violations of his previous releases (more possessions and internal possessions). In time, he became a petty thief, a real thief, a robber (though not an armed robber; his fellow criminals thought he was too crazy to be trusted with a gun). He served time for the Feds (Terminal Island) and for the State of California (San Quentin). He prided himself on being “a stand-up guy,” a good criminal.

All this history makes a pretty gripping story as it’s told by Art with his wife Laurie Pepper in their book, Straight Life (DaCapo). What’s surprising is that the music he managed to make during irregular bursts of freedom was enthralling, too. The gift was starved for the spotlight, for opportunities for performing and recording, but it flowered in the dark, became deeper and more soulful. The performances—from The Art Pepper Quartet (1952) and Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (with Miles Davis’s rhythm section) on Contemporary (1957) all the way through the recordings he made at the Village Vanguard (Contemporary, 1977) and his later recording with strings (Winter Moon, Galaxy, 1981)—are brilliant, poignant, and a joy to hear. The rigor and abandon with which he lived his life were present in every note he played.

Art Pepper died June 15, 1982 of a cerebral hemorrhage. But the 1979 publication of Straight Life and accompanying press had revived Art’s career. With Laurie’s help, he spent the last years of his life trying to make up for lost time, making each performance a life-or-death occasion, touring worldwide with his own bands, recording over a hundred albums, writing songs, winning polls, respect, and adulation.

Most of his albums are still available for sale. Laurie Pepper is releasing the best of what remains unreleased and is working on a movie based on the book, Straight Life. •

This album contains no booklet.

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