Art Pepper “Surf Ride” (1956)


Selected track: “Cinnamon”  >

Special Christmas Bonus! Extra pick from Surf Ride as recommended by Dottor Jazz “Straight Life”  >


Art Pepper with various “groups”, recorded in 1956 during one of the brief spells at the time when he was not in prison.

The track selection “Cinnamon” features distinctive counter-melodies from Jack Montrose (ts), with Claude Williamson (p) Monty Budwig (b) and Larry Bunker (d) – all top West Coast sidesmen.

Other tracks feature Hampton Hawes (p), Russ Freeman (p), Bobby Whitlock (b), and Joe Mondragon (b) and Bobby White (d) in the rhythm section.


Recorded a year before the previous post, “Surf Ride”  is happy boppy bright fast tempo and light.  Many of the tracks carry herbal references, in the best play on words manner – I imagine the music industry employs lots of “creatives” to think these up.  “Cinnamon” showcases Art on alto duetting, or duelling,  with Montrose on tenor,  in characteristic Montrose contrapuntal mode. A tasty recipe for well seasoned jazz (I can write this stuff too you know)

Vinyl Detail: pressing, run-out and labels

MG 12089  US press Savoy heavy vinyl,  maroon labels, mono, with a raised edge to buffer the record when in an autochanger. RVG hand inscribed initials. The audio is not quite up to the very best of NY Fifties pressings, though still very good. Possibly one of the last bunch off the stampers, who knows.

RVG in the runout




Collector Notes

Goldmine Tim Neeleys fault – just when I decided they were asking too much, a casual look at Goldmine confirmed this as an ultra rare and valuable record (though I noticed some of the tracks have since been reissued by Liberty in around 1980 in their “stuff discovered in the vaults series, “Alpha Omega” or some such similar title.

In the best tradition of chaotic production, the songs listed on the cover are in a different order to those listed on the label, so I am guessing the selected track is indeed “Cinnamon”. The cover is slightly too wholesome for an addition to the cheesy Fifties Batchelor Collection of “girls on covers “, though the bikini helps. It wouldn’t quite work the same way with a guy on the board, apart from around certain parts of San Francisco.

I think the cover says it all. West Coast, girls, sun and surf. Am expensive purchase but definitely a “see it buy it”, this you won’t see again. A pure 1956 artefact in excellent condition is not something you see every day.

15 thoughts on “Art Pepper “Surf Ride” (1956)

  1. My copy has RVG etched in the trail off and has the catalog number stamped as well but it has a maroon colored label. Looks the same as the label above except maroon instead of blood red. I can’t find much on the internet about this color variation. Does anyone know if this is an earlier or later pressing? Thanks!

  2. To quote The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz: “Surf Ride (Savoy): early Art Pepper and friends. Cover artwork uncredited; small wonder.” One of my personal, well, favourites among Savoy cover art is “Telefunken Blues”:

    They should have called it “Sound Check”.

  3. Glad that we’re all in full agreement here; never would have thunk that someone would have prepared the master stamper and cut off the highs at the same time. Thankfully Dottore’s Christmas bonus makes up for it, but Lord… This must be the fastest version of “Straight Life” that I’ve heard so far… Maybe the guys had a few ‘coffees’ too much?

  4. thanks LJC: and the one not digging’ this will burn in hell forever.
    Bird died the year before but his lesson will become the spine for many years to come.

  5. LJC is right: there’s a cut off in high frequencies that almost excludes hi-hat, cymbals and brushing on snare drum. disappointing for a drummer.
    other instruments are cut the same way: maybe RVG recorded but others prepared the masters for release.
    everybody have a listen to the first version of the Pepper trademark, Straight life.
    it’s Pepper counterpart to Coltrane’s Giant Steps.
    sound quality is poor but this record is great.

    • Check in the post above. The Jazz Fairy has decided everyone has been very very good, and deserves an extra present this Christmas. Art Pepper’s “Straight Life” as an extra pick uploaded from “Surf ride”, and it sounds pretty good through my PC.

  6. these recordings were originally published on Discovery DL 3023, 10″, Art Pepper Quintet.
    tonight I’ll keep my Savoy out and I’ll rate the sound quality.

  7. Too bad I didn’t know about that a few years ago when I visited San Francisco with my ex-wife, Dottore 😉 -Anyway, this Pepper album is new to me. I like Cinnamon, if that’s the correct title 😉 but old stamper or not: you can hardly hear the hi-hats or cymbals of the drummer. How is the sound for you when you listen at home? Hardly audible hi-hats/cymbals as well?

    • Well spotted, it’s a little weak at the top end. I played it directly after my new Bethlehem and it was audibly flat in comparison. The cymbals are the first to go when the pressing is dull. They “disappear”.

      It seems this is characteristic of other copies of this pressing.
      It’s an important lesson. No matter what the label, runout and everything says, sometimes things are not as good as you expect. The upside is that sometimes, they are better.

      • Listening to a jap CD it sounds more or less the same – maybe a bit clearer on the Cinnamon track but it is quite dull and most likely it is in the recording and not the pressing 😉

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