Art Pepper Presents “West Coast Sessions!” – Volume 3: Lee Konitz (2017)

Art Pepper Presents "West Coast Sessions!" - Volume 3: Lee Konitz (2017)
Artist: Art Pepper
Album: Art Pepper Presents “West Coast Sessions!” – Volume 3: Lee Konitz
Genre: Bop, Cool, West Coast Jazz
Origin: USA
Released: 2017
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
S’wonderful
Whims Of Chambers
A Minor Blues In F
High Jingo
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Anniversary Song
Cherokee
S’wonderful (Alternate Take)
Whims Of Chambers (Alternate Take)

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In 1977, Japanese label Atlas Records struck a deal with then erstwhile jazz icon Art Pepper for an ongoing series of albums. Although it was Pepper’s deal, to avoid contract issues with the Fantasy/Galaxy label, he conscripted other artists to headline these “comeback” records. Originally issued in 1982 as High Jingo, the 2017 Omnivore compilation Art Pepper Presents West Coast Sessions, Vol. 3: Lee Konitz, is a lively set that brings together all the tracks recorded by Pepper and Konitz for Atlas. As with the other reissues in Omnivore’s series, this volume was produced by Pepper’s wife and longtime manager Laurie, who also supplies welcome insight via her liner notes. Joining the saxophonists were longtime Pepper favorites including pianist Michael Lang, bassist Bob Magnusson, and drummer John Dentz. Though they both started out as cool jazz stalwarts who cut their teeth with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra, Pepper and Konitz had cut diverse trails by the time they reunited in 1982. Pepper had infamously spent time in jail and rehab due to drug issues and developed into a hard swinging and deeply emotive soloist. By contrast, Konitz was a cerebral player in the Warne Marsh mold, inclined to slow-build improvisations and a measured reticence. Nonetheless, they got along quite well and their distinctive stylistic differences is what helps make these tracks so compelling. Primarily, they stick to comfortable standards, kicking things off with a breezy reading of George Gershwin’s “S’Wonderful,” and then settling into a soulfully half-lidded take on bassist Paul Chambers’ “Whims of Chambers,” which Pepper originally recorded with the bassist on 1960’s Gettin’ Together. We also get a particularly fascinating juxtaposition on the ballad “The Shadow of Your Smile,” in which Pepper plays a sweet-toned clarinet. Elsewhere, they spar with jovial camaraderie on Konitz’s sly, aptly titled “A Minor Blues in F,” dive headlong into Pepper’s speedy “High Jingo,” and deliver a celebratory, dancer-like rendition of Iosif Ivanovici’s Romanian waltz “The Anniversary Song.” As with many of the other albums Pepper recorded during his time with Atlas, the Konitz sessions have a warm, off-the-cuff energy, made even more electric by the decades of experience shared between the two saxophonists.
Review by Matt Collar

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