The artistry and career of Art Pepper was rough-edged and addled — narcotics-affected and shadowed by a lifestyle that sometimes adventured in the darker sides of life. This seeming darkness was artistically balanced by a brilliance of an independence of music-making that stamped a signature on the creativity.
His life of seeming irreverence, given some shocking substantiation in his memoir, Straight Life, and other accounts of his ways fuelled, in its way, an intrepid and unsubmissive dive into the culture of jazz. The music is purest when demanding independence balanced with respect for its foundations and a healthy fear and concern with whether the respect truly is a currency that can pay its jazz dues. Pepper’s ways and means paid a lot of dues.
His sound inspired and impressed: It was challenged by raw life and questionable dalliance. He battled many-layered adversities and life-borne ugliness, personal demons and the indiscriminate consequences of personal abuses. His ways affected and abused many around him. An artistic creative life of contradictions and chafed insensitivities.
The music speaks a language of independence, as the art form so often does, revolving in an orbit just outside of, and just above, but still able to be sharply focused upon the breath and disposition of an awesomeness of the creating artist. A contradiction, truly as defined and buoyed by its very nature.