Art Pepper – Straight Life

More Art Pepper

Straight Life

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Jazz Classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, from first note to last. The two long ballads, “September Song” at over ten minutes, and “Nature Boy” at just under ten, give Art and the boys a chance to stretch out and take it to another level.

Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is just right – present, breathy and airy with clear leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is truly stellar, especially for 1979, with the legendary Tommy Flanagan on piano, Billy Higgins on drums, and the great Red Mitchell on bass. 

What both sides of this pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this stellar jazz group having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we describe above, and for that, you will need to take this copy of the record home and throw it on your table.

There are a lot of stinkers in the Art Pepper catalog from this era. Acoustic Sounds released a few of them on 180 gram as a matter of fact. What a waste of good viny

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Surf Ride 
Nature Boy 
Straight Life

Side Two

September Song 
Make A List

AMG  5 Star Review

Altoist Art Pepper recorded many albums for the Galaxy label during 1979-1982. Straight Life is pretty definitive and serves as a perfect introduction to Pepper’s second (and most rewarding) period. Not only is there a superior version of Pepper’s famous title cut but very emotional (and explorative) renditions of “September Song” and “Nature Boy.” The quartet also featured pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer Billy Higgins.

Brilliant music.

Galaxy Vs. OJC

Some thoughts on Art Pepper Today which may have a lesson or two for those interested in the best sounding copies of Straight Life.

Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn’s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies. When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second. Of all the people who should know better…