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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Art Pepper



Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

Stars of Jazz began life at channel 7, KABC, in Los Angeles as an unfunded orphan, the dream child of a group of professionals working at the station who forged their dream into an award winning series that would run for two and a half years.  The show quickly attained a core audience with high Nielsen ratings forcing  potential sponsors to wait in line for an opening slot to promote their product on Stars of Jazz

The publicity department at KABC-TV would send promotional material for each Stars of Jazz program well in advance of the air date to newspapers, magazines and other appropriate media.  The media package would usually include photos of the guest artist on each program.  Therefore it is a mystery why TV Guide would frequently announce inaccurate information for a program.  Perhaps the publicity department dropped the ball, or last minute scheduling problems forced substitutions.  The January 28, 1957 edition of TV Guide noted that Mel Torme was due to appear but that was not the case as the Art Pepper Quartet was the guest instrumental group with Les Brown vocalist, Jo Ann Greer, filling the singing slot with the accompaniment of Bobby Hammack.

(© Down Beat, Maher Publications)

The July 25, 1956 issue of Down Beat ran a small column announcing that Art Pepper was back on the jazz scene after having spent ten months in the Federal Correctional Facility on Terminal Island, a stone’s throw from where he grew up and attended high school in San Pedro.  The planned reunion of the quintet with Jack Montrose that had played Los Angeles clubs in the summer of 1954 and recorded for Discovery Records did not record or go on the road as noted in the Down Beat column. The quintet played local clubs, most notably the Angel Room at the corner of Crenshaw and Santa Barbara.
Montrose’s Jazz Ballet failed to be recorded and released on Pacific Jazz.  Montrose composed an abbreviated version of his extended Jazz Ballet that was recorded at the Forum Theater with Andre Previn on piano and Shelly Manne on drums.  That version never progressed beyond the test pressing stage.

(Jack Montrose, Art Pepper & Jack Tucker at the Tiffany Club, 1954)

The title of the Down Beat column, Pepper Back; Dates Pile Up, was accurate, well beyond the few recording dates mentioned.  Shorty Rogers tapped Art for a recording session to fill out the 12” LP release of a previous RCA Victor album.  Dick Bock at Pacific Jazz recorded Pepper in a variety of settings, many of the sessions appeared as orphans on various anthologies on Pacific Jazz and Playboy Records.  Herb Kimmel featured Art as leader on the last album he would produce for his Jazz:West label, The Return of Art Pepper.  Robert Scherman joined the fray and managed to record Pepper for two releases on his Tampa label, one under the nominal leadership of Marty Paich and the other with Art as leader.  Dick Bock pressed Pepper into the studio for dates with Johnny Mandel arranging a Hoagy Carmichael session, Chet Baker in a big band and smaller ensemble sessions, and a quintet setting with Bill Perkins.  Pepper also found time to record with Russ Garcia for a Kapp anthology.  

Art Pepper’s most fruitful association in the fall of 1956 was with Les Koenig at Contemporary Records.  Koenig paired Pepper with Warne Marsh for Art’s first album as leader for Contemporary. Unfortunately this session would be shelved and not released for sixteen years. This would be followed in January by a second album as leader with Art playing in front of Miles Davis’ rhythm section.  Other dates before the end of 1956 included a session with Ted Brown and Warne Marsh for Vanguard with the same rhythm section that backed Art on his first Contemporary session as leader.  

When Herb Kimmel ended his career as record producer for his Jazz:West label the name went with him and Aladdin was not able to release albums using the Jazz:West label.  The Mesner brothers hired Don Clark to continue in Kimmel’s capacity as A&R for jazz releases.  Clark produced Art’s first album for the revived Aladdin label, Intro Records. The Mesners had used the INTRO label for 78 RPM single releases in the early 1950s. He also paired Pepper with Joe Morello and Red Norvo for an anthology that was released on Intro, Collections.

John Tynan and Don Clark interviewed Art Pepper soon after his release from Terminal Island.  Portions of the interview were published in the September 19, 1956, issue of Down Beat.  Art Pepper was candid about his addiction and how it had affected his jazz career.

(© Down Beat, Maher Publications)

Bobby Troup selected The Return of Art Pepper as the album to feature and promote when Art Pepper made his initial appearance on Stars of Jazz.  William Claxton had worked closely with Herb Kimmel at Jazz:West taking photos at recording sessions and designing the covers and layout for all releases on the label.  He called Art Pepper in the fall of 1956 to arrange a photo shoot for the cover of JWLP-10.  Art was living on Ewing Street in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles.  Fargo Street was one block over from Ewing and like Ewing, had one of the steepest streets in Los Angeles and Claxton photographed Pepper on Fargo shooting downward as Pepper stepped toward him on the steep incline cradling his alto.  Claxton felt the photo was a perfect metaphor for Pepper’s climb back into the jazz arena. 

Claxton shot several rolls of film that day.  He moved Art Pepper into a small grove of trees that bordered Fargo Street.  These photos would be selected for use on the Jazz:West cover.

For the Jazz:West cover Claxton removed all of the background leaving Art Pepper in profile with the album title in bold red letters at the bottom third of the cover.  A similar shot from the grove of trees was used by Claxton for Pepper’s second album as leader for Contemporary Records, Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section.  Claxton was shooting black & white as well as color film that day and the full color cover of the Contemporary album with Art Pepper looking looking into the distance over his right shoulder and alto provided another metaphor as Art looked toward the future.

Jo Ann Greer replaced Lucy Ann Polk as principal vocalist with Les Brown’s band around 1953.  Prior to joining Les Brown Jo Ann had recorded with the Jerry Gray and Ray Anthony orchestras.  For her appearance on Stars of Jazz she was backed by Bobby Hammack, an accomplished pianist who regularly backed vocalists on the program.  Art Pepper’s bassist, Ben Tucker, and drummer, Frankie Capp, provided the rhythm accompaniment with Hammack.

SHOW #30
JANUARY 28, 1957
The Art Pepper Quartet: Art Pepper, alto sax; Carl Perkins, piano; Ben Tucker, acoustic double bass; Frankie Capp, drums. Bobby Hammack, piano; Jo Ann Greer, vocal.

Music from this appearance on Stars of Jazz and Art Pepper's second appearance on the program has been released on vinyl record and compact disc. These releases are examined in detail at my Jazz Research blog entry Art Pepper on Stars of Jazz.

Production credits for this show:
Host: Bobby Troup
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Writer: Bruce Lansbury
Director: Leo G. “Hap” Weyman
Audio: Chuck Lewis
Cameramen: Jack Denton, Sal Folino
Technical Director: Gene Lukowski
Lighting Director: Vince Cilurzo
Video: George Hillas

The photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of the Ray Avery Estate.  The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Ray Avery Photo Archives.  Please note that these photos remain the property of the Ray Avery Estate and are used here with permission.  Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to:  Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely magnificent, Jim, both in terms of content and presentation.