Rec. 19 January 1957
Throughout his entire career, it seems that there wasn’t a moment when Art Pepper didn’t have his back pressed up against the wall. The back-story to The Rhythm Section album is a tale worthy of a well thumbed dime store pulp novel.
Everything was stacked up against the wayward protagonist on 19 January 1957. To start with, a far from healthy Pepper not only forgot about this record date with Miles’ then rhythm section until that very morning. Yet despite eventually turning up thoroughly stoned and totally unprepared with his alto sax in even worse shape than himself, he somehow still managed to create one of his finest-ever albums. Despite his unfamiliarity with both most of the material and his rhythm section mates, the overall impression is of this being a well rehearsed endeavour as he navigates bebop favourites ‘Tin Tin Deo’ and ‘Birk’s Works’, a bunch of quality standards, a couple of spur-of-the-moment originals ‘Red Pepper Blues’ and ‘Waltz Me Blues’ and a spirited dash through his own ‘Straight Life’. Against the worst odds imaginable, the successful outcome has as much to do with the combined strength of Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe as it is to do with Art Pepper’s ability to pull this one out of the fire with such panache.
– Roy Carr