Track Selection: How Can You Lose? (Benny Carter)
A walking blues with a jaunty Benny Carter tune, and space for everyone to stretch out (more than the prison yard)
Jack Sheldon (tp) Art Pepper (as) Pete Jolly (p) Jimmy Bond (b) Frank Butler (d) recorded Los Angeles, CA, October 24 & 25, 1960
Smack Up differs from the usual West Coast formula, of standards and show tunes, in featuring songs composed by other saxophonists, from the famous (Benny Carter’s How Can You Lose?) to the infamous (Ornette Coleman’s Tears Inside) , and the deserving-of-wider-recognition Harold Land for the title track Smack Up. The resulting variety of styles gives the album greater breadth than Pepper’s other records, or indeed most West Coast records.The playing is terrific, with energy and swing in equal measure, and is one of the highlights of Pepper’s recording career. Having already recorded one of the all time great jazz albums in 1957’s “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section” up there with Kind of Blue in my opinion, Art adds must-have Smack Up to the austerity-burdened record collector’s must have list.
“Smack” was of course the street-name for heroin. Shortly after recording “Smack Up” Pepper was sentenced to three years jail for heroin possession, treating his addiction as a social problem not a medical problem. In effect, Art got three years unpaid rehearsal time.Today we have a more sensible approach: we try to put his dealer behind bars, pushing up the street price and further enriching the ruthless Mexican cartels in the supply chain. In place of a War on Drugs, the US tried a War on Musicians. It made a sort of sense from their point of view: at least musicians didn’t generally shoot back.
Vinyl: US Contemporary S7602
Green and Gold Stereo from 1961. Ever wary of reissues of Contemporary, dime a dozen, I have never seen a knock-off of the green/gold, only ever the yellow label. LKS (Lester Koenig Stereo) master number stamped in the run out – no handwritten job numbers and catalogue numbers which are the reissuer’s trademark – shouts “genuine”
Cover alert! Technical hitch in the printing department, the cover art has been printed or trimmed 5cm too small for the jacket. Whoops, bodge-it! Every expense spared, no lamination, lamb dressed up as mutton, frankly the reissuers did a better job.
The thing is, forgive the cover, the stereo is marvelous, huge soundstage, a joy to listen too, and that is coming from a mono-fan. Roy DuNann got it right at a time when many didn’t. If you see a green/gold or black/gold edition of either Contemporary or “Stereo Records” – DuNann’s original venture – grab it with both hands and shriek “its mine, its mine!” and don’t let go until the men in white coats arrive. This stereo release came after Contemporary began releasing stereo in their own name, so it is, I believe, the first press, however no doubt the mailbox will be jammed with corrections if not.
Source Ebay Location: Netherlands
“Selling this nice copy of this highly recommended album ART PEPPER smack up ON CONTEMPORARY ORIGINAL USA S7602 DEEP GROOVE ORIGINAL RECORD IS VG+, looks like played quite a few times, has some inaudible scratches, but plays very fine. SLEEVE is VG/VG+, CARDBOARD SLEEVE, SPINE IS TEARING, SLIGHT RINGWEAR, LOOKS FINE , SEE PICTURE”
I’m not going to argue that the sleeve “looks fine” because, in truth, it looks awful. A bit like the seller who described my recent record purchase with three deep inch-long scratches as “VG Plus, some light marks which not affect play“. The 5cm gap of bare cardboard on two edges does not affect looking, true. A distinction I have made before, Collectors prize the cover, Audiophiles prize the vinyl. Nice to have both but sometimes it’s not an option on the table.
The best laugh however I reserve for the delivery packing from my ebay seller – all the way from The Netherlands – in a pizza delivery box, no other packing or stiffeners, just a record in place of the pizza