Alto saxophonist Art Pepper was well on his way to becoming one of the all-time great jazz musicians in the late 1940s and early 1950s when drug addiction derailed his career and landed him in jail on multiple occasions. After serving time in prison and rehab, Pepper re-emerged in the middle 1970s and embarked on an unexpectedly fertile period of his career. The last few years of his life found Pepper on top of his game, as evidenced by “Live at Fat Tuesday;s.”
The 70-minute slab features five extended live performances at the fame Big Apple jazz club on April 15, 1981. Pepper died at age 56 in 1982 and these recordings weren’t available to the public for more than 33 years. Good fortune smiled when a tape of the Fat Tuesday’s performance was discovered by Elemental Records owner Jordi Soley.
Joined by pianist Milcho Leviev, bassist George Mraz and drummer Al Foster, Pepper was in peak form that night. The set included jaw-dropping renditons of tunes by Thelonious Monk (“Rhythm-A-Ning”), Cole Porter (“What Is This Thing Called Love”) and Gordon Jenkins (“Goodbye”), as well as a pair of Pepper originals in “Make a List, Make a Wish” and “Red Car.” This one’s must for jazz buffs. (Jeffrey Sisk)