Art Pepper: Neon Art Volumes 2 & 3 (Omnivore Recordings)


Art Pepper
Neon Art, Volumes 2 & 3
Omnivore Recordings

We recently reviewed the first volume of this Omnivore trilogy–a wonderful set taken from a performance at the heels of Pepper’s comeback. It’s a fine performance, with Pepper’s playing at his best. The second and third volumes of Neon Art concentrate on Pepper’s tour of Japan in November of 1981. These two sets further highlight the man’s talents, showing just what was lost when he died suddenly mere months after these performances.

The operative word to describe the music on these two discs is “epic.” Both contain three songs, of which two-thirds of the songs run well, well over the ten minute mark. Though lengthy in duration, Pepper’s playing never veers out of the realms of enjoyment. He’s not interested in the lengthy soloing flights of fancy a la John Coltrane, but he’s not slouching, either. The take of classic Wizard of Oz number “Over The Rainbow,” is all about feeling, a gentle ballad that is stretched to fifteen minutes, wherein Pepper displays his soloist abilities while retaining the delicateness of the original. His take on “Everything Happens To Me” is solemn and graceful, accentuating the song’s melancholy. Then there’s the twenty-five minute workout “Make A List (Make A Wish)” that is all about groove, and is an enjoyably up-tempo number that feels much shorter than its length.

Art Pepper may have passed away at a relatively young age, but it’s to his credit that his widow Laurie has kept his legacy alive, thanks to archival releases such as this.The Neon Art is a captivating document of Pepper’s abilities, and should be a must-listen for both longtime listeners and those unaware of his music.

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