Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot Pepper @ The Village Vanguard

It might be the most famous venue in modern Jazz. John Coltrane recorded his most important live album there, as did Bill Evans. NPR has a concert series based at the Vanguard. I am behind on my listening, but they have a recent concert featuring Cedar Walton. That is something to look forward to.

Some time ago I acquired Art Pepper: The Complete Village Vanguard Sessions. It's pricey to be sure, at over a hundred bucks. But when you have it, you have Pepper. Art Pepper was a mess. His recording career was punctuated by about four prison terms, all due to his heroin addiction. Photos of Pepper at this date remind me of Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows.

Still, Pepper managed to leave behind a series of immortal recordings. The Vanguard recordings give you nine discs of everything that Pepper put into the microphones during his stint at the club. That means a lot of versions of the same numbers.

It also means you get to hear his voice, a lot, as he schmoozes the crowd. Pepper clearly wanted the crowd to know that they were present for something important. They were.

Backing Pepper George Cables played piano, George Mraz played bass, and Elvin Jones was on drums. They were up to the occasion. Here is a sample from the nine disc collection:
Art Pepper/Live at the Vanguard/Live at the Village Vanguard
This one will make you glad to be alive. Seek out the rest of the recordings, and shell out some dough. One of these days you will raise a glass to me.


  1. I really love Art Pepper and have for a long time. For a real look inside the mind of a self-destructive man, and the life of an artist and jazz musicians life, I most HIGHLY recommend reading his autobiography:

    You will also get a greater appreciation and understanding of his music at the various distinct phases of his life. Those 'phases' are segmented by the times he served hard time in the slammer.

    It really is a great read.

  2. Wow does that sound delicious! I obviously share your affection for Pepper. I have long regarded Art Pepper and the Rhythm Section as one of the very best jazz recordings. I think I will do another Pepper post while I am inspired.

    1. Paul/kooljazzman44@yahoo.comMay 21, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      Ran across this by accident.Just want to say I have read Art Pepper's autobiography "Straight Life" and I have owned the "Complete Village Vangaurd" box set for 3 years now or more I think i purchased it in early 2009 and paid around 40.00 dollars.Now its up over 100.Anyway Art was a true artist but he had many demons read the book and enjoy his music its some of the best jazz you can listen to.

  3. Paul: I missed your comment earlier. Pepper was a study in the evils of heroin and the virtues of jazz. I have a post much earlier in the history of this blog on "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section" that covers this topic. Thanks for the comment.