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‘You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To’: Easy and elegant, Art Pepper blows his pinched and jittery tone through the changes of Cole Porter’s urbanity. The alto sax brings a brooding quality to the bouncy melody, telling us insouciance is not all it’s cut out to be. I think of Straight Life, Art’s brutally honest autobiography; I think of the abortion his mother wanted him to be: Something in his tone remembers—his lyricism is all the more moving for being naked and raw.
The way so many musicians slavishly imitated Coltrane—that’s the way it was with Charlie Parker, only even more so, if that can be imagined. Everyone that I knew changed totally. But they took the worst things of his playing; that harsh sound, it just didn’t come off the way they did it.
The way he did it was great; their way wasn’t good at all. I just would listen to ‘em and say “That’s a Bird imitator”, and that would be it; I would never care to listen to them again.
Alto is just a very hard instrument; there are so few people that play it really well. I feel it’s the best one, too, now. At first I didn’t feel that way—I wanted to be a tenor player. It took a long time for me to feel that alto was the most expressive of the saxophones.
As for that whole West Coast era, it was a great opening to reach the people, even though it made me angry to be pigeonholed like that. Some good records came out of that period, like Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, with the Miles Davis rhythm section of the time—Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Gettin’ Together, on similar lines, was even better.