Art Pepper: September Song


September Song


Art Pepper (alto sax)


Straight Life

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Art Pepper (alto sax), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), Billy Higgins (drums).

Composed by Maxwell Anderson & Kurt Weill


Recorded: Berkeley, September 21, 1979


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Art Pepper had performed and recorded this song many times with the Stan Kenton band in the early 1950s, but this 1979 version is nothing like anything you will find from the Innovations Orchestra. Pepper himself had undergone a sea change. He was ravaged by years of incarceration and drug abuse, and his alto playing had been equally transformed from the sweet, innocence of 1950s West Coast jazz into a post-Coltrane cauldron of jagged lines, surprising feints and thrusts, and occasional moments of hard-won tranquility.

Pepper was in the midst of a comeback. His previous Galaxy release, Art Pepper Today, had pushed him back into the limelight, especially with his inspired workout over the closing vamp of his composition "Patricia." Pepper probably had that performance in mind, as he tries to create a similarly dramatic ballad-plus-vamp on "September Song." He doesn't reach the same level here, but he still delivers a gripping performance, and sent a message, to all who were listening, that Art Pepper was back.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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