Art Pepper – Smack Up – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More Art Pepper

Smack Up


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

WOW — the first Smack Up Hot Stamper to hit the site in over two years! We love this album and wish we could find more great copies, but it sure ain’t easy. Here’s a Contemporary Yellow Label pressing that’s very good on side one and INCREDIBLE on side two. The first track on side one doesn’t sound quite as good as the rest of the material, but by the second track this thing is SMOKIN’.

You’re going to flip out over this side two, mark my words. The sound is lively and dynamic with a powerful bottom end. The saxophone sounds just right — breathy, full-bodied and realistic. This side has all the tubey magic of the best black label originals, without their bad vinyl and bloated bass. I get black label original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site. Some are pure muck. Some have bloated bass that is hard to believe. 

Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. That’s bullshit. It just doesn’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should know better. (The fact that few audiophiles or record collectors do understand these things is a sad commentary on the state of reproduction in the home. But that’s another story for another day.)

Side one is very good but not quite in a league with the best. It’s lively and musical with silky highs and lots of deep bass. The horns have just the right amount of bite but lack a little of the breath we heard on our ultimate side one. We rate side one A – A+ — it’s smooth, sweet, clean, and clear. The sound is pretty mediocre for the first song, but it comes to life after that.

We love the sound of Contemporary Records — it’s our favorite jazz label by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seems to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drum sound; full-bodied, breathy horns; lots of top end extension; deep, note-like bass; weighty piano and so on. 

AMG Review

“Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Remarkably, his personal demons rarely (if ever) dissipated his talents or resulted in less than enthusiastic recordings. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft.” – AMG