Lost Tapes of Art Pepper, Warne Marsh To Be Released Nov. 11


Art Pepper (left) and Warne Marsh were collaborators during the 1950s, and again in the 1970s.

(Photo: Mark Weber/Courtesy Laurie Pepper, lauriepepper.net)

On April 26, 1974, saxophonists Art Pepper and Warne Marsh, former collaborators and two of the biggest names in West Coast jazz, reunited on the stage at Donte’s in North Hollywood after nearly 17 years apart.

The moment represented the return of a fruitful partnership. Throughout the ’50s, these two titans of the saxophone—Art Pepper on alto, Warner Marsh on tenor—tangled and sparred stylistically, their playful embroilment coming to a head on the 1956 album Art Pepper With Warne Marsh, which catapulted the reedists’ artful collaboration into the national spotlight.

Now, modern listeners will have a chance to sit in on that monumental concert. On Nov. 11, Pepper’s widow, Laurie, will release Unreleased Art: Volume 9, Art Pepper & Warne Marsh at Dante’s April 26, 1974, a three-CD set featuring previously unheard tracks recorded live at the venue. The album will be released on Laurie’s proprietary label, Widow’s Taste.

Though Marsh normally forbade recording at his performances, he made an exception for this particular concert—which also featured pianist Mark Levine, bassist John Heard and drummer Lew Malin. The session was recorded on reel-to-reel, quarter-inch, quarter-track tapes, which, after years of neglect, were sent to Laurie Pepper by persons never known or now long forgotten. She rediscovered the tapes while cleaning out a closet.

Laurie subsequently gave the tapes to engineer Wayne Peet of Newzone Studio. Peet balanced and enriched the onstage sound, reduced excessive noise and smoothed out minor technical glitches. The result, writes Laurie in the album’s liner notes, is “miraculous.”

By 1974, Pepper was revitalizing his career. The saxophonist had quit his job managing a bakery and was making a living playing bar mitzvahs and weddings. At the time, one of his steadiest gigs was sitting in with trumpeter Jack Sheldon’s band once a month at Donte’s.

When, during the night of April 26, 1974, Sheldon was forced to cancel his appearance, Pepper and Marsh were fortuitously brought together on stage, and an important alliance was rekindled.

Unlike Pepper, by 1974, Marsh was coasting on the momentum of a long and successful career. He’d been touring with his own bands for years, and by the middle of the decade he was traveling the world with Supersax, with whom he’d won a Grammy.

In the liner notes of the new album, Laurie elaborates on the saxophonist’s stylistic and personal differences.

“Art discovers, witnesses, makes us confront, the disasters and the raptures swimming through our own, shared, volatile blood, beyond the reach of language. He knows our grief, our joy, our rage, and turns them into something timeless. His music seems to talk about real, actual life, the one that’s nasty, sweet, and short. And he convinces us, repeatedly, that, just as-is, it’s sacred.

“Warne offers to distract us. He offers art, the endlessness and possibilities of art, the infinite inventiveness and charm. Something in me, if I’ll listen, hears his rhythmic and harmonic revelations and responds with pleasure, satisfaction, even laughter… .”

All albums in the Unreleased Art series are available on Amazon and CDBaby. For more information, visit the Art Pepper website.

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