Art Pepper: Presents West Coast Sessions! Volume 5 – Jack Sheldon

1980 pairing of Art Pepper and Jack Sheldon reissued with bonuses

After a gap in the first half of the ‘70s, alto saxophonist and West Coast Jazz icon Art Pepper returned to recording. By decade’s end he was under contract with Galaxy, and when a small Japanese label came calling, he had to get creative. Unable to record for Atlas as a group leader, he picked session leaders and took credit only as a sideman. The albums were issued only in Japan, previously anthologized in the box set Hollywood All-Star Sessions, and are now being reissued by Omnivore with bonus tracks. Volume 5 is headlined by trumpeter Jack Sheldon, backed by Pepper’s road band of Milcho Leviev (piano), Tony Dumas (bass) and Carl Burnett (drums). The second of Pepper’s sessions for Atlas, this was originally released as Angel Wings; Ominvore’s reissues adds three alternate session takes and a version of “Historia De Un Amor” with Jack Sheldon’s vocal.

Recorded in 1980 at Sage & Sound, this was the only album in the run that paired Pepper with a trumpeter. Pepper and Sheldon had met up as young West Coast pups in the early ‘50s, and recorded together frequently. Though separated by Pepper’s prison and rehab time, and Sheldon’s acting career, they reconnected in the early ‘70s for gigs. As with all six titles in this Atlas-reissue series, the set list leans mostly on jazz standards, augmented by two original pieces from Pepper and one Pepper/Sheldon collaboration. The set opens with Pepper’s “Angel Wings,” revisiting the swinging arrangement the duo had recorded for 1956’s The Return of Art Pepper. The same album also provides the standard “Broadway” and the Pepper original, “Minority.” “Broadway” offers terrific interplay between the sax and trumpet, while “Minority” shows off its West Coast cool in a minor key.

The riff that animates “Jack’s Blues” is more sprightly than blue, with each player getting a chance to stretch out. Leviev is particularly playful on this track, and Dumas and Burnett riff at one another to nice effect. The album’s ballad, “Historia De Un Amor” is offered as both an instrumental and (as a bonus track) a vocal version. As pleasing as are Pepper and Sheldon’s uptempo exuberance, the soulfulness of their balladry is an album highlight. The vocal version was rescued from a cassette, and while it doesn’t match the fidelity of the masters, it’s a terrific addition. Omnivore’s reissue includes a 12-page booklet of photos, credits, studio diagrams and liner notes from Pepper’s widow, Laurie. Laurie Pepper has kept the flame of Art Pepper’s music alive through biography, blog and archival releases, and now with this series of reissues, an important chapter in Pepper’s career is revived. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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