Friday, December 2, 2016

Art Pepper and Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974, Unreleased Art: Volume 9

By 1974 anything associated with the "cool school" in general and Cool California in particular had reached a nadir in popularity among jazz fans. Neither Art Pepper nor Warne Marsh belonged in that category in some generic sense. Pepper may have had cool overtones from time to time but he ultimately came as much out of Bird as not. He had more in common with Jackie McLean and Phil Woods than, for example early Bud Shank, but he was important on the California scene in the heyday of West Coast Jazz and by the early '70s that was not going to get you much cache, or cash I suppose.

Tenorman Warne Marsh of course came out of the Tristano School and along with Lee Konitz were the major saxophonists associated with Lennie. Tristano and his acolytes were a great deal more than "cool," of course, but the independence of their sound and approach left them out of the "funk" reaction that was so influential, and so they tended to be lumped into the generic heap.

Pepper of course also had his personal problems with addiction and a number of lengthy incarcerations that took him out of the scene.

By the time they formed a two-horn front line for a gig at Donte's in LA, they were playing with a fire that had no relation to cool. And at that point especially the two brought out something in each other that was more than the sum of their parts. So we are lucky that Art's widow Laurie had inherited a set of tapes capturing in detail and decent clarity the two on a Friday night at the club and now is releasing it all in a 3-CD set Art Pepper & Warne Marsh at Donte's, April 26, 1974 Unreleased Art: Volume 9 (Widow's Task APM 16001). Jack Shelton was in the lineup for the gig but for whatever reason could not make the Friday show and so Art nabbed Warne for that night.

Incredibly, Art and Warne had last played together in the '50s, yet there is such kinetic energy here you would never have thought it had it not been so. The repertoire was the bop standards each would know: "Cherokee," "Donna Lee," etc. plus some American songbook chestnuts like "All the Things You Are."

They were backed by a capable and enthusiastic trio of Mark Levine on piano, John Heard on bass, and Lew Malin on drums.

And it is the magnificent interplay of Art and Warne, so different from Warne and Lee Konitz and/or Art and any other horn player, that makes this a magic set. The interlocking dual counterpoint between the two in joint solo space is something to behold. But then the two on their own are equally fine. They play HARD and with lots of fire. That makes this set a beauty!! Get it for a special club date where everything is right and both Art and Warne play as well as they ever did!

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