February 8, 2011

Two Excellent Albums : "Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section" and "Trittico" - Part I

The music forms that these 2 albums represent are diametrically opposite of each other. One is of the Classical genre, which is structured, organized, disciplined; the other is Jazz, which is free, improvisational at heart, and relatively raw. I love them both.

Both albums, coincidentally, were introduced to me by friends who visited to listen to my system. Thanks, mates!

Both albums aren’t new, they have been around a long time. The “Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section” album was originally issued in 1957 (I also gathered that the original LP issue of this album is now very much a collector’s item, though there are reissues now). The ‘Trittico’ album was released in 1999.

Let me talk about the Art Pepper album first.

Common to many Jazz recordings from the 50’s and 60’s, the Art Pepper album has an analogue feel to it, the transfer is clean and clear, the sound has good body, is warmish and a little ‘golden’. Like some Jazz recordings from that era, Art Pepper’s solo sax is panned hard to the left channel, while the other instruments, including bass, drum and piano, are panned hard right.

The best part though, is the music making. Apparently Art Pepper had not been playing for a few months, his recording label saw fit to pair him, in short notice, with the rhythm section of Miles Davis’ quintet, as a sort of challenge to him. And the end result of this collaboration is one of Jazz’s great albums.

Art Pepper’s style is unlike my other favourite sax players - John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Cannonball Adderley. He had a more accessible style of sax playing, less ‘intellectual’ and a little lighter. This album, I think, can be enjoyed even by a non-Jazz fan. Just bear in mind that Jazz is more about rhythm than tune, so don’t go around looking for some beautiful, sing-able tunes. Instead go in to enjoy the twist and turns of the solos and the toe-tapping good rhythm. If you aren’t tapping your toes and grooving along listening to this, your playback system has a serious problem with rhythm.

I like particularly tracks 1 and 3. Track 1 “You’d be so nice to come home to” is an excellent example of a classic Jazz piece that has speed, excellent energy and bouncy rhythm. Track 3 ‘Imagination’ is the only slow track on the album, its gently swaying rhythm, the burnish sax tone, the brushes on the cymbals, and the deep double bass notes all make up to a satisfying and relaxing musical experience. From track 5 onwards, I found that the playing is a little similar in style, but all in all, it is still a great outing.

If you are a classic Jazz fan, you should add this album to your collection. If you are not yet, this is a good place to start.

(Part II to come…)

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