Art Pepper – The Complete Art Pepper At Ronnie Scott’s Club: London 1980

Pure Pleasure always does a great job of bringing obscure treasures to light. In the case of rescuing Art Pepper’s legendary shows at Ronnie Scott’s in 1980, the label has struck pure gold. Originally recorded for the long-defunct Mole Records, these records became nearly impossible to find and, if you did manage to locate them, incredibly expensive. This remastered 7LP set includes both Mole releases as well as 17 previously unreleased tracks, courtesy of Pepper’s wife having uncovered the lost material.

The performances are simply fantastic. Pepper’s playing is awash in nuance, and the Milcho Leviev Quartet is in constant sync with the saxophone master. Moreover, the audience is so quiet that you almost forget the music is played before a crowd. And, there’s only a slight duplication of material, with “Red Car” and “Ophelia” played at both the June 27 and 28 shows. However, the different renditions, performed on back-to-back days, reveal Pepper’s genius. His audience banter, also preserved on the albums, adds to the fun and realism.

As for the sound? Studio-like, with the venue’s dimensions perfectly recreated. All 14 LP sides are immaculately clean; not a click or a pop anywhere, and BIG dynamics throughout. Better still, the liner notes claim that the records were made “using multi-microphones in a straight stereo mix with no noise reduction, limiting, compression or EQ.”

The set also includes a booklet with photos, program notes, and commentary—great for any aficionado. Whether you are a completist that owns practically everything, or a relative newcomer to jazz or analog, this box set should be in your collection. -Jeff Dorgay

Pure Pleasure Records, 7LP Box Set