Art Pepper “Living Legend” (1975)

Track Selection: “Lost Life” (re-ripped) >

The Artists

S7633 Art Pepper (as) Hampton Hawes (p, el-p) Charlie Haden (b) Shelly Manne (d) Recorded Los Angeles, CA, August 9, 1975

The Music

Only his second recording after the end of a five-year sentence in San Quentin 1968 -73 on narcotics charges , the poignantly titled “Lost Life”. Pepper spent a total of ten years in prison, as though drug addiction wasn’t a prison enough. Perhaps his dealer suffered some brief financial hardship, though I doubt it. Pepper’s comeback for this session saw him surrounded by some of the best  players of the late Fifties and early Sixties, and his alto had lost none of his tone.

Musically it connects the Pepper of the  Meet The Rhythm Section Sixties to the mid-Seventies, hardly skipping a beat. The only significant musical shift is the occasional use of electric piano by Hampton Hawes, a sound which fixes it firmly in the Seventies. (The track selection maintains the acoustic piano). Up until the ’70’s you had the grand, the upright, and the Hammond B6 organ. Suddenly the electronic piano arrived, percussive notes replaced by sustained notes. Before long the double bass would be replaced by the Fender bass, and the loss of the  timbre that made acoustic jazz such a direct natural intimate musical form.So this record is perched on the cusp.

The Vinyl: pressing, labels, run-out

Contemporary were and remain superb pressings, capturing superb recording and sound engineering. This record sounds great – more than you can say of a lot of reissues at the time pouring out of the likes of Atlantic and Fantasy Tenth & Parker. Stereo by now has found its feet, with a proper soundstage instead of left-or-right instrument positioning. It sounds almost “Japanese” if you know what I mean.

True to its original Contemporary status the run-out carries the machine-stamped matrix code, still following the convention LKS but now up to a count of 300 plus

Collectors Notes

Recommended by an LJC follower with “deep knowledge” (hat tip, Dott!), the record  is neither rare nor expensive and is not one on collector’s radar. I had seen it many times and passed it over, a mistake. However it is also a notable as a leading “bad hair” record – with  Hampton Hawes overgrown hedge look , Pepper aged fifty questionably oiled and combed, and Shelley Manne’s brush-forward strategy, usually a sign of receding hairline. Only Charlie Haden still looks youthful, but all are fully in command of their musical powers.

It was priced at £8, and the dealer knowing me to be an afficianado of collectible jazz, looked puzzled, like “are you sure you want this record?” written on his face.

“It’s an overlooked masterpiece you know, and this is the original US pressing” I said, by way of explanation to a question that hadn’t been asked.

Still looking baffled, he swiped the plastic, whilst making a mental note to charge double for the next copy: “Its an overlooked masterpiece, you know”

2 thoughts on “Art Pepper “Living Legend” (1975)

  1. Superb track. The appropriate keyword here would be: heart wrenching. I have plenty of early and mid-seventies jazz in my funk collection, mostly from Creed Taylor’s labels CTI and KUDU. Try, for instance, Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay”. Up to this day easily available on vinyl, and, as is the case with this 1975 Pepper album, always for cheap; the best reason to keep this information between us. Before you know it the prices for these gems sky rocket as well! 😉

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