Art Pepper (September 1, 1925 – June 15, 1982), born Arthur Edward Pepper, Jr., was an American alto saxophonist and clarinetist.
About Pepper, Scott Yanow of All Music stated, "In the 1950s he was one of the few altoists (along with Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond) that was able to develop his own sound despite the dominant influence of Charlie Parker" and: "When Art Pepper died at the age of 56, he had attained his goal of becoming the world's great altoist.
Pepper was born in Gardena, California. He began his career in the 1940s, playing with Benny Carter and Stan Kenton (1946–52). By the 1950s Pepper was recognized as one of the leading alto saxophonists in jazz, epitomized by his finishing second only to Charlie Parker as Best Alto Saxophonist in the Down Beat magazine Readers Poll of 1952. Along with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Shelly Manne, and perhaps due more to geography than playing style, Pepper is often associated with the musical movement known as West Coast jazz, as contrasted with the East Coast (or "hot") jazz associated with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. Some of Pepper's most famous albums from the 1950s are Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics, Gettin' Together, and Smack Up. Representative music from this time appears on The Aladdin Recordings (three volumes), The Early Show, The Late Show, The Complete Surf Ride, and The Way It Was!, which features a session recorded with Warne Marsh.
His career was repeatedly interrupted by the years he had to spend in jail because of his recurring legal transgressions, stemming from his addiction to heroin, but Pepper managed to have several memorable and productive "comebacks". Remarkably, his substance abuse and legal travails did not affect the quality of his recordings, which maintained a high level of musicianship until his death from a brain hemorrhage.
His last comeback saw Pepper, which had started his career in Stan Kenton's big band, becoming a member of Buddy Rich's Big Band from 1968 to 1969. In 1977 and 1978 he made two well received tours of Japan. During this period, he recorded two albums - Goin' Home with George Cables, and Winter Moon with a string orchestra - which were among his favorites and which he considered his definitive achievements.
Pepper lived for many years in the hills of Echo Park, in Los Angeles. He had become a heroin addict in the 1940s, and his career was interrupted by drug-related prison sentences in 1954–56, 1960–61, 1961–64 and 1964–65; the final two sentences were served in San Quentin. In the late 1960s Pepper spent time in Synanon, a drug rehabilitation group.
After beginning methadone therapy in the mid-1970s, Art had a musical comeback and recorded a series of albums including Living Legend, Art Pepper Today, Among Friends, and Live in Japan: Vol. 2.
His autobiography, Straight Life (1980) (transcribed by his third wife Laurie Pepper), discusses the jazz music world, as well as drug and criminal subcultures of mid-20th century California. Soon after the publication of this book, the director Don McGlynn released the documentary film Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz Survivor, discussing his life and featuring interviews with both Art and his wife Laurie, as well as footage from a live performance in Malibu jazz club. Laurie Pepper also released an interview to NPR.
Pepper died of a stroke in Los Angeles.
Arthur Edward Pepper, Jr. (1 de septiembre de 1925–15 de junio de 1982) fue un saxofonista (alto) estadounidense de jazz. Comenzó su carrera musical en los años cuarenta tocando con Benny Carter y Stan Kenton. En los cincuenta, Pepper se convirtió en uno de los principales músicos del West Coast jazz, junto con Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne y otros.
Pepper nació en San Pedro, California, aunque vivió durante muchos años en las colinas de Echo Park, en Los ángeles. Se convirtió en heroinómano en los años cuarenta y su carrera se vio interrumpida por varias sentencias de prisión relacionadas con las drogas en los años cincuenta y sesenta. A finales de los sesenta, estuvo en Synanon, dentro de un grupo de rehabilitación para ex drogadictos. Tras empezar una terapia con metadona a mediados de los setenta, Pepper pudo regresar a su carrera musical y grabó una serie de discos muy elogiados. Su autobiografía Straight Life (1980), co-escrita con su tercera mujer Laurie Pepper, es una excepcional exploración en el mundo del jazz y en las subculturas de las drogas y lo criminal de la California de mediados del siglo XX.
El documental Art Pepper: Notes from a Jazz Survivor, disponible en DVD, dedica mucho espacio a la música de unos de los últimos grupos en los que tocó, junto con el pianista Milcho Leviev. Ejemplos de los discos más famosos de Pepper son Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, The Aladdin Recordings (tres discos), Art Pepper + Eleven - Modern Jazz Classics, Gettin' Together, and Smack Up. Música representativa de sus comienzos aparece en The Early Show, The Late Show, The Complete Surf Ride y The Way It Was!; y de su prolífico último periodo en The Living Legend, Art Pepper Today, Among Friends y Live in Japan: Vol. 2. Existe también una entrevista con Laurie Pepper disponible en NRP