In an earlier post i talked about setting two soloists side by side, performing on the same song, in order to do a little comparison and contrast. Pepper and Adderley seemed like a good pair to begin with. but before getting into things, lemme throw this out there: perhaps the title of Pepper’s disc (ART PEPPER MEETS THE RHYTHM SECTION) suggests a little about his solo on “Star Eyes”. Pepper seems quite restrained on this cut. perhaps it’s due to the fact that this was a one-off recording. i’m not sure if he’d ever played with, or even knew personally, Garland, Chambers or Jones, and from what i’ve read, this session came as a surprise to him. he was also caught up in his habits and hadn’t been musically active for several months up to that point. just imagine waking up one morning with no idea that later in the day you’d be in the studio playing with the legendary Miles Davis rhythm section, arguably the hottest trio of their day! more than a few musicians would absolutely freeze up. not to make excuses, but given the circumstances, Pepper provides a beautiful, although tentative, performance. but still, i can’t help feeling that he is a sideman rather than the leader. Adderley, on the other hand, recorded his version of “Star Eyes” on his record THE CANNONBALL ADDERLEY QUINTET PLUS with his working band featuring brother Nat on cornet, Sam Jones on bass, drummer Louis Hayes, special guest Wynton Kelly on piano, and Victor Feldman on vibes and piano. unlike Pepper, Cannonball sounds totally at ease with his bandmates- he brings off his two choruses with great style. but really, i can’t ever recall a time hearing Adderley when he didn’t sound incredibly poised and confident. in my opinion, Cannonball’s take is the better of the two but given the very different circumstances of these recordings, it’s rather unfair to compare them… and in another quick aside: being born in Los Angeles and raised in Northern California, i tend to wear my irritation on my sleeve concerning the narrow attitudes toward West Coast Jazz. it has with a few exceptions, been routinely stereotyped as commercial and blasé. when i listen to someone like Pepper for example, i hear a deep, emotional undercurrent hiding behind what can be referred to as a characteristically west coast sound and style… i’ll concede that quite a bit of music that’s come out of California has been forgettable- the same can easily be said for some east coast stuff. but let’s never forget that the west coast, along with the easy-listening aesthetic, also spawned or nurtured musicians like Mingus, Dolphy, Don Cherry, Dexter Gordon, Chico Hamilton, Bobby Bradford, John Carter, Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, Hampton Hawes, Gerald Wilson, Sonny Simmons, Sonny Criss, Aurthur Blythe, James Newton, Billy Higgins, Horace Tapscott and David Murray, to name a very few. the west coast has never had one sound or style, and many of the above named musicians have left indelible fingerprints on the music. okay, i’m off the soapbox…
with all that said, the glaring fact is that these two artists interpret this music from unique cultural and stylistic vantage points: Pepper, a young white saxophonist, coming up in Los Angeles, was affiliated with the likes of Chet Baker, Shelly Manne and Gerry Mulligan, all of whom were exponents of a “cool(er)” jazz style, while Adderley, a young Black saxophonist up in New York by way of the south, was aligned with many of the major hard bop’s leading exponents. LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) writes at length about his opinions on the differences between hard bop and cool jazz in his great resource, BLUES PEOPLE. in a nutshell, he feels that the cool players tended to, intentionally or subconsciously, supress the overtly Black elements of jazz style while the hard boppers tended to do the opposite.
the thing that jumps out at me first when listening to these recordings is how different Pepper and Adderley sound. Pepper’s sound, is for the most part, unadorned. very little vibrato with light articulation. his sound, to me has a delicate, brittle, acidic edge to it. Adderley’s sound, on the other hand, has an unrestrained, romantic quality to it. he incorporates a generous vibrato, heavily articulates his phrases. his sound is sweet and syrupy, and has an overt blues orientation.
the feel of each soloist is also very different. Pepper’s understated lope is contrasted by Adderley’s deep bounce. Pepper’s solo, in this respect typifies what some dislike about the rhythmic concept of many “cool jazz” musicians. he doesn’t really dig in to the beat but rather seems to float slightly above it. he seems to keep himself at arm’s length. Adderley grabs on and doesn’t let go. he rides the beat as well as reinforces it with a hard articulation.
rhythmically, Pepper generally expresses his lines using eighth notes with occasional triplet figures. Adderley is more varied. he alternates his eighth note figures with sixteenth note runs, triplet patterns and lots of syncopation.
both improvisers approach “Star Eyes” with concepts rooted in the innovations of the previous generation of jazz musicians. much of their language is similar. i think the biggest difference is in their stylistic attitudes. although i dislike labels like “cool jazz” or “hard bop”, the adjectives in them do roughly describe the styles of Pepper and Adderley respectively. Pepper, in this recording, is more at a distance, more reserved in his blowing, while Adderley is much more blues-based, assertive and confrontational. hearing these two great players, who were only three years apart in age, side by side shows how varied personal styles can be….
ART PEPPER- SOLO FROM STAR EYES (mp3)
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CANNONBALL ADDERLEY- SOLO FROM STAR EYES (mp3)
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