[JPL] Art Pepper / Jerry Bergonzi...Ben Ratliff, NYTimes

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 4 17:26:35 EDT 2007

Art Pepper

Laurie Pepper, the widow of the great jazz saxophonist
Art Pepper, has started putting out some of his
excellent unreleased recordings on her label, Widow’s
Taste (straightlife.info). The first two volumes of
“Unreleased Art” are concerts from near the end of Mr.
Pepper’s life: “The Complete Abashiri Concert,” from
Japan in 1981, and his final show, at the Kennedy
Center in 1982. I prefer the first, but both are
fascinating reminders of how different the jazz
mainstream sounded then. Not just Mr. Pepper, with his
sharpish tone and voluminous outpouring. (He had a
late-career fascination with John Coltrane, and his
playing took on a kind of compulsively self-revealing
aspect.) I mean everyone in the quartet: the pianist
George Cables, the bassist David Williams and the
drummer Carl Burnett. Saxophone notes fly, piano
chords are dense, cymbal sounds carpet the rhythm.
Jazz was still in the era of the heroic statement. BEN




(Savant Records)

A strange development in jazz over the last 30 years
has been that many of its players with the most
actual, documented influence on other players aren’t
that well known to the larger world. They are usually
teachers in New York or Boston and authors of books on
harmonic theory. An axiom of the American respect for
show business is that one’s reputation as a great
teacher can hinder one’s reputation as a great player.

The tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, who has written
seven volumes of an influential series called “Inside
Improvisation” and — but? — is a masterly improviser
himself, could serve as the prime example. Since the
early ’80s he has made a lot of decent records for
tiny labels that might have been great with some extra
attention or with top-of-the-heap rhythm sections. But
as the years go by, as he grows more profound and as
his circle of collaborators remains close, a Jerry
Bergonzi record is becoming a more desirable thing. 

“Tenorist” is a casually great jazz record. Made with
the guitarist John Abercrombie, the bassist Dave
Santoro and the drummer Adam Nussbaum — all longtime
collaborators — it refers constantly to older models
but doesn’t beat you up with them; there’s no harrumph
or anxiety anywhere. Even in the record’s original
pieces Mr. Bergonzi has taken in the language of John
Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson
and Warne Marsh. But here, with an interactive band,
he sounds unprogrammed, in that happy, liberated zone
where formal technique and strategy are indispensable
yet rendered irrelevant by a sense of fun.

It’s all coherent, but he phrases as he likes,
nonuniformly and all over the horn, making his speed
crest and wane, dropping into a line before one might
think he’s supposed to, ending mid-thought.
Harmonically too he plays strategies that postdate the
styles of his heroes: things you might hear among lots
of younger players in jazz clubs this week, but
probably not played so beautifully. BEN RATLIFF


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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