The 28th of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) is a bittersweet Art Pepper ballad that epitomises his last years.
From the rich clutch of recordings that preserve Art Pepper’s glorious late style this studio session grabbed me first, and has never let go.
The band were hot. Pianist Stanley Cowell (see last week’s track), master bassist Cecil McBee and Roy Haynes on drums had cut a trio recording a couple of days before, then stayed on for this session. You can tell it’s the same set-up from McBee’s unusual, growling bass sound, which carries over from the trio set.
Pepper didn’t record with Haynes again: the man was such a great accompanist, you might wish he had. On this track, a ballad the saxophonist wrote for his estranged daughter, the drummer is perfect, doing almost nothing but just enough. Cowell – who dredged up the decades old tune, Laurie Pepper tells us, when Pepper had forgotten it – contributes a fine solo after Pepper’s long, bitter-sweet musing on the theme, then the saxophonist returns for an impassioned coda, when beauty turns into frantic, shrieking ugliness for a few moments of high emotional tension, before calm returns, just, before the ending.
The tune became a staple of Pepper’s live performances thereafter, generally riding the same emotional roller-coaster, but this first (re)-encounter captures a special moment.