Straight Life by Art Pepper. A compelling documentary of one of the great and relatively ignored Jazz legends, Alto Sax Division. I was also for years, an acolyte of East Coast Jazz (most prominent but not exclusive to New York Jazz) and the legendary sounds of Chicago Jazz, as well. I bought into the ridiculous notion that West Coast Jazz was not up to par in my youthful naiveté, shaped by the orthodox viewpoints of the Jazz crowd I swung with. I missed one of Art Pepper’s last Chicago visits – I didn’t think to go based on my stubbornness. I saw a documentary on Art and it really moved me, so I bought this book.
Aside from reveling in the fact he was born and raised in the Los Angeles area (which I am as familiar with as the back of my hands), but also that he was half Italian! His musicianship is exquisite, a master of melodic and soulful ideas, and what a sound! As an independent thinker, I quickly abandoned the old orthodoxies, and realized some of my musical heroes were west coasters. (Mingus for one!) It’s not easy to call one’s self a name, but I was a fool. Art’s life read like a movie- the ups and downs , successes and failures eventually leading to total decline and a rebirth after falling as low as crime and Synanon. The book is a treat to read – it’s a cliché but, once you pick it up, you can’t put it down!
Art, I didn’t know you but I feel a kinship to you. Your gift of music spans time!
I hope you enjoy Art Pepper’s composition dedicated to his wife Laurie who was his redemption and reintroduced Art Peppers music to the world. Our Song is one of the few jazz compositions where a string arrangement actually enhances its beauty … a heartfelt tribute.