Art Pepper: Presents West Coast Sessions! Volume 6 – Shelly Manne

1981 pairing of Art Pepper and Shelly Manne 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 6 is headlined by drummer Shelly Manne, backed by Bill Watrous (trombone), Bob Cooper (tenor sax), Pete Jolly (piano) and Monty Budwig (bass). The penultimate of Pepper’s session for Atlas, this was originally released as Hollywood Jam; Omnivore’s reissue adds one alternate session take.

Recorded in 1981 at Sage & Sound, Pepper’s next-to-last session for Atlas brings back two previous session leaders – Jolly (Vol. 2) and Watrous (Vol. 4) – as session players. As on the other volumes in the series, the set list sticks primarily to standards, with the one original being the group-developed “Hollywood Jam Blues.” With three horns and a talented pianist, the solos get passed around a bit more than on other sessions in this series. The smooth tone of Watrous’ trombone is particularly compelling, as is the contrast between Pepper and Cooper’s saxophones. Jolly offers some terrifically melodic playing, and Manne, though mostly remaining in the background as part of the rhythm section, is clearly in the driver’s seat. He single handedly sets the fast tempo of “Lover Come Back to Me” with his cymbal.

The album opens with all three horns interlacing on the introduction of “Just Friends” before each player is introduced with a solo. The album’s ballad, “These Foolish Things,” is sleepy, while “Limehouse Blues” is dreamlike. The closing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” is also presented as a bonus track in a longer, more expressive version that apparently wouldn’t fit on the original vinyl album. 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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