Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section (1957)

Track Selection: “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” >

S7532 Art Pepper (as) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) Originally recorded on 19 January 1957. All three musicians in the rhythm section were at the time part of the Miles Davis Quintet, hence “meet The rhythm section”

The Music

A heartfelt choice of song title, given Pepper’s long stretches in prison on narcotics charges, including at one term of five years in San Quentin. Perhaps shorten the title to “So Nice to Come Home”. An easy and familiar standard which gets a fresh injection of energy from Art’s flowing alto lines, in the ample space opened up by the best rhythm section of the day.

The whole record is considered a milestone in Pepper’s career, together with a series of albums he recorded in the late 1950’s for Contemporary, and which remain the cornerstone of his recorded work. Meet the Rhythm Section offers a contrasting variety of pace and mood, from the helter-skelter signature piece “Straight Life” to the darkly funky Gillespie tune “Birks Works”, and is often cited by jazz critics as one of the 100 most important records in the history of jazz.

Vinyl collector stuff: pressing, run-out and label detail

A very sought-after record in its original form, both the UK Contemporary-Vogue and US Contemporary Records pressings for 1957 are rare and competition for them is fierce. It should not go unnoticed that the market is also bursting with anonymous digital to vinyl clones with convincing card covers to catch the unwary. Check that run-out for tell-tale hand-inscribed matrix numbers and the clone-makers job-codes!

S7532 is, according to Goldmine, the second stereo US press, from 1959, a year after the first Stereo by Stereo Records S7018. The run-out carries the matrix code machine stamp of an original –  LKS 35/36 –  pressed with original stampers. It carries the direct lineage  sound from the original tapes, though there are issues with the stereo which may explain why the mono is so sought after.(The mono in excellent condition sells for over £100 !)

The problem is a familiar one to collectors, from a time when stereo was still in its infancy. In this pressing Pepper is exclusively on the far left – in one channel only, and the right channel contains all the other instruments – piano, bass and drums. The result is one lonely tenor player on his own, a hole in the middle,  and a bunch of other musicians jammed on top of each other in the right speaker. May be this was what was intended to “showcase” stereo on none too hot equipment. Mono circumvents the problem, but first you have to get one.

Collector Notes

My copy originated from a UK seller on eBay disposing of his fathers jazz collection. From an exchange of emails, it seems his father, who was a big fan of Pepper, had actually met Art at a concert and got him to sign a copy of his book “Straight Life”. The dedication read, according to his son,” Straight Life – hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had living it.”

It’s a good line, and sometimes it’s nice that a record has some sort of heritage, some one’s much-loved item, which can continue to be enjoyed. After all, that’s what records are for.  That little, and that much.

10 thoughts on “Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section (1957)

  1. Pingback: Original Matrix Code

  2. I do have a copy of Sonny Rollins way out west. Contemporary, stereo, deep groove, black label with golden letters. Where do I put this ? Second or early stereo pressing ??

    • Goldmine lists “Way out West” as follows: :
      under “Stereo Records”: S7017 (1958)
      under “Contemporary”: S7530 (1959)
      I guess its the pressing sequence according to the catalogue number
      ( I sometimes wish I didn’t have a copyof Goldmine. Its too big to carry around, so if you are out and about, and you see a record, you only find out for sure what it is “after the event” whe you get home and look it up.)

  3. One of my favourites! However, the first Stereo press of this music was issued by Stereo Records in 1958 and have gold on black labels. Just look further down in Goldmine’s listing 😉

    Stereo Records issued all of Contemporary’s stereo issues up to a certain point in time (early 60’s) when Contemporary took over and did it themselves.

    • Hot damn you are right, over the page at the other end of the alphabet from “Contemporary” sits a different record company called “Stereo Records” S7018 Meet the Rhythm Section (1958). Well it was close : S7532 (S) is still credited to 1959. What’s a year between friends? A bonus point.

  4. Oh and THIS BLOGGER offers in interesting read on the album.

    He also says this about the cover photo, and I quote: “the photograph on the cover of the album was taken on Baxter St. in Echo Park, while Pepper was waiting for his heroin dealer. I think he had just been released from jail earlier that day, or the day before.” -Anyone currently online who can back this up? 😉

  5. Fantastic album indeed. I have it on CD, but I wouldn’t say that there’s a ‘hole’ in the middle of the stereo image. If you listen to this one with headphones on for instance, then you can actually hear the living room style ambience ‘bleeding’ from the left into the right channel and vice versa. Maybe the vinyl indeed is rock hard left/right with nothing in between, but honestly: if you listen to the CD, then it’s really as if you’re positioned in the middle of the room, where on your left side you indeed hear Pepper and the rhythm section on the right, but in a pleasant -and I’d say realistic- way. Play the left channel only and listen closely: you will hear the guys on the right ‘bleed’ into Art’s mic. Do the same with the three on the right and again listen closely: in the back you can hear Art playing. And you actually hear that living room-ish reverb and ambience. This, as I think is the case with many of these early stereo LPs, must have been a session recorded live on a two track machine, probably not intended for stereo, meant to be ‘folded down’ to mono by simply mixing track 1 and 2 into one steady, mono signal. But that’s just my two cents. Still: put them headphones and a sleep mask on and seriously listen. It’s as if you’re there. (Last but not least: what’s with the snow falling here on LJC? For a second I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me…!)

    • The snow is a free seasonal enhancement courtesy of WordPress until January 4th. Cute, no?

      As for the Stereo, I figure they must have done something to fix things when making the CD. The vinyl is pretty rigid channel separation, much like Coltrane’s Love Supreme. I was listening trying to figure what they put in the middle, and decided that, sitting in the sweetsort on the sofa, there wasn’t anything in the middle. Or at least nothing definitive. My Linn doesn’t do headphones unfortunately (for my neighbours)

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