Art Pepper: Live at the Village Vanguard (1977) Contemporary (J)

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30LJC Reminder: data request for your NYC Prestige records! Whether you have few or many, the collector community need good data to identify early and original Prestige pressings. Go to the Prestige post to pick up the template, and contribute data on your collection. It’s just a few clicks. Results will be shared on LJC. It’s the right thing to do.

——————————————————————————————————————–Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977-cover-1800-LJC Selection: But Beautiful

Continuing the previous post’s Contemporary Records theme…but jumping two decades into the future


Art Pepper (alto,tenor saxophone, clarinet) George Cables (piano) George Mraz (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded at the  “Village Vanguard”, NYC, 1st set (selection, from first show), July 28, 1977, engineer Bob Simpson, remixed by John Koenig (so no Roy DuNann) .

After “graduating” from San Quentin, and a lengthy period in rehab at Synanon, Pepper returned to the recording studios in the mid-70s,  playing and recording through until 1982, when he finally ran out of time, age 56.

Three LP Box Set: fully dressed with its obi Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977-cover-1800-LJC-OBI Music

I’ve long overlooked Pepper’s later work, there is so much good stuff in his prime,  but when I stumbled on this lovely three box set recorded in 1977, vintage engineering by King Records, and with one of my recent favourite bassists, George Mraz, and Mr Elvin Jones on drums, a second opinion was long overdue. Recorded over three nights before a relaxed appreciative audience (no jackass stomping hooting or whistling, – apologies to those who welcome the more demonstrative audience ) this live set automatically has you turning the lights down low and joining the audience, a decanter positioned strategically within arms reach.

Pepper has a uniquely sweet alto voice with its expressive timbre undimmed by time in the big house and decades of narcotic consumption. Despite his self-destructive course and wasted years inside, when Art steps forward to play, it’s Art, pure and simple

. Pepper leads the way, effortlessly self-assured, through  both original compositions and bebop mainstays, whilst his supporting trio –   Cables, Mraz and Jones – are long experienced jazz craftsman, acutely sensitive to one another’s personal styles,  wrapping the whole sound seamlessly together. It’s still musically the ’60s, but now grown up.


I’ll offer my Japanese readers the insert’s the four pages of Japanese text (indicative of Japan-only releases?) If there is anything you feel should be brought to our attention, please feel free. Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977--insert2-1800-LJC For non-Japanese readers, on to the pictures, front and back. Pictured with Art, Max Gordon, proprietor over five decades of The Village Vanguard, probably the most influential club in jazz history, recording venue for Sonny Rollins,  Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, countless others, fitting that Pepper should finally join the list. And the bilingual track listing. Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977--insert1-1800-LJC Triple Vinyl: Contemporary (Japan) GXH-3009/11 King Records pressing 1980 Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977-label-1000-LJC-OBI Numbered Limited Edition, box with little hole in the back, to push the albums forward out of the box, Japanese ingenuity. Mosaic, take note! Art-Pepper---Live-at-the-Village-Vanguard-1977-bakcover-1800-LJC-OBI Collector’s Corner The first time I had seen a King Box Set, but not the first Japanese Contemporary. Records like this fall within the golden era of pre-digital production, Japanese quality engineering, near-silent vinyl, and a playback history of non-injurious low-weight tracking arms and generally careful owners. So you can be fairly confident of what you are going to get. Though there was always the possibility, I was not disappointed. ————————————————————————————————————— Reminder: Prestige NYC titles – Keep those Prestige NYC data contributions coming, we have 180 records data sets in  but we need more! prestige-collectors-datasheet-v-6-4-9-5-15 Thank you all those who have already submitted a return, for the rest of you, contribute what you have.

14 thoughts on “Art Pepper: Live at the Village Vanguard (1977) Contemporary (J)

    • If nothing else, the Village Vanguard sessions prove that even under the most unfavourable circumstances, Art Pepper was still able to play reasonably well at short notice. (We all know that decades before, he had played extremely well on the “Rhythm Section” date under similarly detrimental conditions.) But there’s little else that can be said, except that here and there he’s trying to do some Coltrane, unsuccessfully.

      • acute observation: late Pepper differs from the early one a lot.
        after his last resurrection, his tone became harder, angular, breathless, sometimes inaccurate. Pepper tried, failing, to express himself into Trane’s directions. imo his best achievement has been Living Legend, Contemporary 7633.
        listen to the beautiful soulful theme and, from the other side, his anxious solo.

  1. jackass stomping, hooting, or whistling? for shame, LJC. you may not like this, but it is part of the culture of bop which gave you the music you love. as a musician, when i perform live in any capacity, i like an engaged and responsive audience. if i wanted them to be silent i would put on a bowtie and go pretend swinging my head around while i played made my talented in a philharmonic orchestra.

    that IS the point of a live recording, after all. to capture the audience as much as the performer.

      • All points of view welcome here, Greg, including all sorts of spelling. I’m for spelling-diversity. From a musician’s perspective, I can see that audience enthusiasm is an encouragement, point taken.

        As a listener on a sofa in a recorded “nightclub setting” , I’m with Mingus, who chastised audiences for even clinking glasses whilst the musicians were engaged in the serious business of performance. Maybe there is a difference between this and “stadium concert culture”.

        You prompt me to ask how you feel about people trying to film your performance on camera phones? Last concert I went to about a quarter of the audience, instead of concentrating on enjoying the performance, were trying to film the performance on their camera phones. Seems to me the desire to “capture everything on a phone” is one of those horrible modern technology distractions.

        I know there are musicians who take exception to their performances being uploaded to Youtube without their consent. And Keith Jarrett refused to continue playing due to audience camera intrusion into creative space.. Seems the musician/audience interface is controversial..

        • i do not like to record things on my phone ever, because the picture and audio are always terrible. at concerts of varying stripes, i like to just listen and be involved.

          but i begrudge no one their own form of enjoyment, and if capturing a portion of it on their device of choice suites their needs, that’s fine with me.

          jazz has a rich history of audience response, and when i went to see pharoah sanders a few years ago, he thanked me after the show for my enthusiasm. but some don’t like it. mingus seemed not to understand that he wasn’t performing at his own personal carnegie hall. if you are at a bar, you need to be aware that business is being conducted and that you are not the center of the universe, no matter how incredible your talent. as a musician, which i sometimes am, i am always gracious for the chance to share my music, and thrilled that people come to see it. thinking i’m a privilege to host and listen to would be arrogant, and it’s arrogant no matter how amazing you are.

          i like to be recorded. it’s a great way to see how my performance comes off from the other side. i always ask people to send me their pictures and videos when they record my band.

          and i think we can all agree that keith jarrett is the worst kind of petulant asshole. i like his music, but you don’t even sort of deserve to act like that until you’ve had miles davis’ career, and then even only barely. if i ever become a festival promoter, i’d hire a parrot before i’d hire a brat like him.

          • and even if you don’t like being recorded, it is possible to ask politely. i sometimes ask people to refrain from using the flash, and they are usually happy to oblige. a little kindness can go a long way. jarrett is the kind of guy who would cut you off in traffic and nearly cause an accident just to make a point.

            • When I saw Keith Jarrett playing onstage with Miles in 1971, the music was just loud, way too loud. Audience response, no matter which way, was of no relevance whatsoever. He turned to more subtle ways of expression later, sometimes ear-friendly to a degree that earned him the title of “Richard Clayderman of jazz”. Anyway – I wouldn’t disagree with your verdict, Gregory.

  2. This is some of my favourite music, period. Like you, LJC, I have only recently discovered late Pepper – I can heartily recommend No Limit (1977) Straight Life (1979) Among Friends (1978) and Winter Moon (1980) although the latter, recorded with string orchestra, might have the jazz jihadists running for cover, Pepper dominates and is in resplendent form.

  3. I also have this one and its great. It doesn’t have an Obi or any Insert and isn’t a limited edition but it only cost me 4 quid. Loathe as I am to suggest such a thing but maybe time for an investigation into the variations of Japanese pressings of all our favourite jazz records??

  4. I have the dates on three individual lps from contemporary and they have long been one of my favorite live session recordings.

  5. It’s well worth buying Laurie Pepper’s book ‘Why I married a Junkie Jazz man’ as she gives a great account of Art’s drug binge before the recording of this set…. Which makes its quality even more surprising when you know the conditions under which it was recorded.

    I love my box set as well bought for 800 Yen or about £5 in Japan possibly one of the greatest bargains I have ever found.

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