Art Pepper ‘Meets the Rhythm Section’ (Poll Winners Records) 4/5

One of altoist Art Pepper’s most loved and respected albums, ‘Meets the Rhythm Section’, an encounter with no less than the then recently dissolved Miles Davis rhythm section, this superlative recording is paired with a lesser known item that dates from a year previous in 1956 with some of the top Hollywood musicians. The former is the stronger of the two releases and features a classic selection of the American songbook, some relatively recent for the time at least jazz standards and one original composition in ‘Straight life’ that would virtually become a signature tune for Pepper and be the title of his warts and all autobiography, one of the most candid accounts by any musician all genres included. Needless to say the msuical accompaniment from the likes of Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass (who also co-wrote with Pepper ‘Waltz me blues’) and drummer Philly Joe Jones is a dream to behold and Pepper positively revels in the company. Thus a terrific ‘Tin tin deo’, a lilting ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’ and a seductive ‘The man I love’ are just three highlights of an outstanding set. For the second album, Pepper was under the leadership of pianist Marty Piach and his quartet featuring Pepper offers an excellent if altogether briefer in terms of soloing album. Mainly standards are covered, though Paich contributes three pieces including Sidewinder’ (not be confused with the later commercial classic from Lee Morgan) with ‘All the things you are’ and ‘You and the night and the music’ the picks of the bunch. No extras or alternate takes on the first album, but original sleeve notes and Down Beat reviews are included.

Tim Stenhouse