Art Pepper (1925-1982) was one of the last saxophonists I learned about. A few years back a colleague loaned me Pepper’s Live at the Village Vanguard CD, and when I heard “But Beautiful”, which I now consider one of the greatest sax pieces in jazz history, I was transported. (Sadly, that song isn’t online.)
If you’re a jazz buff, you’ll know about Pepper’s tumultuous life. A heroin addict for nearly thirty years, he served several stints in jail, including time at San Quentin. In between he made some remarkable albums. One of them is Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, with Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on the drums.
I’m including a cut from the album here, which is even more remarkable considering how my Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD describes it:
The playing on Meets the Rhythm Section beggars belief when the circumstances are considered: Pepper wasn’t even aware of the session until the morning of the date, hadn’t played in two weeks, was going through difficult times with his narcotics problem and didn’t know any of the material they played.
And from that session you’ll find this great rendition of Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”: