Friday, December 4, 2009

Michael Fremer Review

We thank Michael Fremer (look for this every Friday),senior contributing editor of Stereophile magazine- for this great review. It has been a pleasure to speak with Michael and learn more about audio sound and equipment. In fact, his new DVD, "It's A Vinyl World, After All" has hit the shelves and is selling out very quickly. This is a must have for anybody who loves vinyl, it is a true masterpiece.

Make sure to stop by his site, and bookmark it for further exploration. I certainly want to thank Michael for the exclusive rights to reprint his fantastic material.

Art Pepper (reissue) The Way It Was

Contemporary/Mobile Fidelity 180g LP

Produced by: Lester Koenig
Engineered by: Roy Du Nann
Mixed by: Roy Du Nann
Mastered by: Rob M. LoVerde

Review by: Michael Fremer

For the most part, the best Art Pepper could do in 1972 when this set was issued was listen to and talk about old performances and old tapes. He recorded only one album during an extended period of inactivity stretching from 1968 to 1975.

In 1969, during a stay at Synanon he met Laurie Miller with whom he wrote the liner notes for this album that consists of unreleased sessions and outtakes from some that were. It’s an unusual choice for a Mobile Fidelity reissue since it’s hardly a classic album. It’s hardly an “album” at all, for that matter and all of the tunes are covers of standards.

However, it is significant in that all of side one, recorded in 1956, had been previously unreleased because there wasn’t enough material for an entire album and side two consists of outtakes from significant Pepper albums.

Side one is also significant because Pepper plays with not often recorded cool Los Angeles-based tenor sax player Warne Marsh who died onstage in 1987 at the age of 60 while playing “Out of Nowhere” at an L.A. nightspot. Backed by the the rhythm section of Ben Tucker on bass, Gary Frommer on drums and Ronnie Ball on piano, the group tears through “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” “All the Things You Are,” “What’s New,” and “Tickle Toe.”

Pepper and Marsh trade lines and intertwine in a serpentine and intricate manor reminiscent of what Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan pull off seven years later so pleasingly on the 1962 RCA Living Stereo release Two of a Mind (RCA LSP-2624), though Mulligan was on baritone sax and the quartets were piano-less.

Side two includes two unreleased tunes featuring collaborations with two of Miles Davis’ rhythm sections, one, “The Man I Love,” from Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section (Contemporary S7532) recorded in 1957 and the other “The Way You Look Tonight,” from Art Pepper: Getting’ Together (Contemporary S7573), recorded in 1960, the former with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, the latter with Wynton Kelly, Jimmie Cobb and Chambers. In between is “Autumn Leaves,” an unreleased track from Art Pepper: Intensity (Contemporary S7607) also from 1960, with Dolo Coker on piano, Jimmy Bond on bass and Frank Butler on drums.

By today’s jazz standards, these tunes are straight ahead and nothing special compositionally. The magic is in the playing and the vibe. Pepper’s playing throughout is deft and his tone cotton candy light and bracingly cool compared to what his friends on the other coast were doing.

Sonically, side one shows its age though nothing Roy DuNann recorded sounded anything but convincingly natural and as dry as the martini to which Paul Desmond’s playing used to be compared. The rhythm section is all right channel, the saxes left with minimal fill in between but it’s so well done, it doesn’t really matter.

Side two sounds much more modern, with the Pepper taking center stage and the other instruments divided left and right. Compared to two originals I have on hand, this reissue is really better in every way: quieter, richer-sounding (meaning mastering engineer LoVerde knew that DuNann used to purposely boost high frequencies and master to lacquer dropping them by an equal amount as sort of a pre-Dolby noise reduction system) and the result is a very transparent, warm, full sound.

Again, if your collection is short on jazz, I can’t say this is an essential place to start filling in, but otherwise it’s an excellent reissue and well worth owning and enjoying.

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