Art Pepper, + Eleven/ Meets the Rhythm Section

First: Cool Jazz Artists trump Cool Metal Artists.

Second, there are, unfortunately, probably ten times more Cool Metal Artists than jazz.

Third, Art Pepper is just goddamned cool. Look at that cover: Suave bastard.

He was a total junkie (read this) who’d screw you for the slightest inching toward the needle, but who knows… maybe that’s the only way he played. Maybe he sounded like shit straight. But when you look cool even in your mugshot (see below), and all your photos post 1968 look like mugshots anyway…

+Eleven is Art replaying a dozen or so old standards for a quick buck (which can still work, baby), and …Meets the rhythm section is a pre-packaged session with him and Miles Davis’ rhythm section, but it… also just fucking works.

Chet Baker famously said of Pepper’s phrasing (paraphrased from As Though I Had Wings), that it was too spur-of-the-moment, too fragmented, not joined at all. And that’s pretty much true, as far as I can hear: There’s little continuity from one clump of 10 seconds to another. The question is– does that bother you? It seems as though his phrasing is as in-the-moment ignoring-the-future as his addicted personality was. It’s also a testament to his wit: even thinking in only a few second at a time, there were no lulls. It’s a monument to his massive brain power– and probably the same reason he loved chemical depressants:

…He was always bored.

If that Life Approach works for you, at least sonically, then these records will.

Truth be told, much of +Eleven is cheesy pandering numbers that indulge nostalgia. Only Bernie’s Tune seems to not acutely be aware of its audience. …Meets the rhythm section, though, spreads out (maybe Art had something to prove to the at-the-time-red-hot rhythm section of Davis’…?) and feels like his inner junkie (i.e., the personality designed specifically to be walled off from others) actually connected with his band. Standouts: Jazz MeWaltz MeImaginationRed Pepper and So Nice.

Buy either, wherever you do. Or don’t.

Also:

He is totally glorifying criminality.

 


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