Pepper, Art - Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (special)
This 1957 session is one of Pepper's finest early period works. Pepper was second only to Charlie Parker as a case study in just what bad boys the bad boys of bebop were and how amazing it was that they could play this fast, complex music while as strung out as could be. Anyway, that's got not much to do with the music here, which is as fine of a straight-ahead, swinging date as there was the mid/late 50s.
"Anybody well steeped in the history of jazz will be familiar with the story of this recording, which goes something like: strung out, drug addled saxophonist who is out of work and out of luck is surprised by the announcement of his spouse that he has a recording gig at a local studio with the rhythm section of the then ubiquitous Miles Davis, so he dusts off his horn (literally), gets to the studio, is handed some lead sheets, and in the haze of a fading high, attempts to do a close reading of songs he is largely unfamiliar with, and pulls off one of the classic jazz recordings of the decade, if not of all time. Over the years, we can only speculate how much of this story is true and how much is embellishment, but what cannot be argued is that the quality of this recording and its overall musicianship and listenability is top notch. It's recordings like these that really make a person disappointed that there aren't more of them, more opportunities for these parties to have collaborated, maybe even in writing some original tunes together. I mean, Miles Davis' rhythm section was tighter than a conga drum head, and though at times you get the feeling they are carrying Pepper along with them, there are other times where you can't help but feel that Pepper has led them down a musical road they weren't planning to travel. The variety of tunes is great, the remastered recording is without glaring inadequacies. Red Garland's piano is ethereal at moments, while Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers keep the swing steady and strong. Pepper lays back when he wants, pops out when he wants, and generally adds just the slightest amount of risky instability to the steadiest support group from that era of jazz. This is just a great jazz album, a must have for Miles Davis, Art Pepper and honking sax fans, and a definite cornerstone of any serious aficionado's collection."-Eric Sendesky