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Art Pepper
Getting' Together

Review By Phil Gold
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  East meets West on this 1960 recording featuring the complete rhythm section from the Miles Davis Quintet (Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb) backing Art Pepper and Conte Candoli from the west coast. This release is an SACD hybrid disc where the stereo SACD layer stands head and shoulders above the Redbook layer. What a treat to hear how this early stereo recording, still suffering a little from a hole-in-the-middle acoustic, displays so much more intimacy, bloom and definition in a high resolution format.

This is a reprise of the 1957 album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section. On that spectacularly successful disc, featuring an earlier Mile Davis lineup of Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums), the joint is on fire. Pepper had almost no time to prepare for the recording session, but sounds at his inspired best backed by these three superb musicians who work so tightly together.

When the Miles Davis group passed through Los Angeles in February 1960, there was time for just one recording session. Getting' Together doesn't quite reach the same heights of the earlier effort, but it's very enjoyable all the same. It goes without saying that the rhythm section is tight and swings like the devil. But the temperature is, for the most part, down a notch, and the rapport between Pepper and his partners isn't quite as magical as before. Also the unison playing with Conte Candoli could surely have benefited from some additional rehearsal time.

Pepper is in a relaxed mood this time, exemplified by his slow-building solos on the opening number, "Whims of Chambers." He begins falteringly, but takes a very lyrical approach until, in his second solo, he spits out rapid fire notes to take the tune to a higher place. Naturally, since he wrote it, Paul Chambers solos on this track, and it's a joy to hear such tuneful vamping, so well captured.

Pepper's "Bijou the Poodle," which could have been written by Thelonious Monk, proceeds at a measured pace and features a fine solo by Conte Candoli in the best Miles Davis tradition. The very slow ballad "Why are we Afraid" elicits a magical, smoky performance from Pepper, reminiscent of Sidney Bechet's superb phrasing on "Petite Fleur." The understanding between Pepper and Chambers beggars belief.

Softly, as in a "Morning Sunshine" swings strongly but Pepper is not at his most inventive here. But he rises to the occasion on the up-tempo number "Rhythm-a-Ning", which not only sounds like Monk it is. This track shows Jimmy Cobb at his best but pride of place goes to Wynton Kelly for his remarkably inventive contribution. He seems to be totally at home in Monk's angular composition.

"Diane," another slow ballad, penned by Pepper, leaves me cold, as does the first version of Getting' Together. But the alternate take is a different matter altogether, providing the most wonderful interplay between the musicians, who were clearly having a great time by now. Again, this track belongs to Kelly for two outstanding solos. Always understated but musically satisfying. To close, another bonus track, "The Way You Look Tonight." This brings out the fire in Pepper's saxophone and the band swings like the devil. A great way to round out the album.

A word of praise for the sound engineers Roy Dunann and Howard Holzer, and for Fantasy Studio's Joe Tarantino for the excellent mastering. A little more sparkle and dynamics would be welcome but we should be grateful for the clarity and warmth preserved on this disc. A keeper.

 

 

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