Art Pepper – …The Way It Was

More Art Pepper

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end – the beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two has demo disc quality sound
  • Included are three tracks left off some of Pepper’s best albums on Contemporary – Meets the Rhythm Section, Intensity and Gettin’ Together
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Despite his very erratic lifestyle, altoist Art Pepper never made a bad record. The first four titles team together Pepper with tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh for generally intriguing explorations of four standards… this album finds Art Pepper in top form.”

This vintage Contemporary pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Art and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of The Way It Was 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 1972
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments 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 discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

The Music

Side one of this album boasts unreleased material Art recorded with famous West Coast tenor Warne Marsh. It’s great to hear Art play against another sax man. Fans of straight-ahead mainstream jazz will find much to enjoy here. Of course, the contemporary studio sound is outstanding — it’s yet another triumph for one of our favorite engineers, Roy DuNann.

Side two features material left off other albums recorded at the peak of Pepper’s prime period for Contemporary, 1957 to 1960. The sound varies from track to track, but much of the time it is brilliant. Just listen to how punchy the kick drum is during the drum solo in The Man I Love.

What We Listen For on The Way It Was

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.


Side One

I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me 
All the Things You Are 
What’s New? 
Tickle Toe

Side Two

The Man I Love 
Autumn Leaves 
The Way You Look Tonight

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

Despite his very erratic lifestyle, altoist Art Pepper never made a bad record. This collection is better than most. The first four titles team together Pepper with tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh, pianist Ronnie Ball, bassist Ben Tucker and drummer Gary Frommer for generally intriguing explorations of four standards. One can feel the influence of Lennie Tristano (with Pepper in Lee Konitz’s place), although Pepper had his own sound and a more hard-swinging style.

The success of the Pepper-Marsh frontline makes one wish that they had recorded together again. The other three selections are leftovers from a trio of classic Pepper albums and all are quite worthwhile… Overall, this album sticks to bop standards and finds Art Pepper in top form.

Session Breakdown

#A1-A4: recorded Nov. 26, 1956. Previously unreleased.
#B1: recorded Jan. 19, 1957. Previously unreleased from session for “Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section” (Contemporary S7532)
#B2: recorded Nov. 23, 1960. Previously unreleased from session for “Art Pepper: Intensity” (Contemporary S7607)
#B3: recorded Feb. 29, 1960. Previously unreleased session for “Art Pepper: Gettin’ Together” (Contemporary S7573)