[Monday Notes no.95] An experienced musician once advised me: “if while improvising you come up with a phrase you have already used, don’t play it. Rather take a rest, and think of something different.” This is a very radical position for a jazz musician, yet there is one saxophonist who sometimes seems to think in exactly this way: Art Pepper. Let’s listen to his track Lost Life.
Art Pepper’s phrasing consists of short, sharp phrases that are always surprising. It is virtually impossible to hear him play the long semiquaver phrases played by most bebop saxophonists.
Lost Life is a short but very original ballad. In the introduction and in the first part we find the two chords D and E♭, which create a Hispanic-flavoured sound in a mainly modal context.
The second part modulates to the key of F major, with a more typically jazz progression, descending from the 6th degree (Dm) to the 4th degree (B♭), then ending with a typical III VI II V turnaround (Am7 D7 Gm7 C7).
Lost Life is an evocative and original song. Art Pepper’s music can be both melancholic and full of energy at the same time. Art Pepper is definitely one of Charlie Parker’s greatest heirs and one of the most original and innovative alto players of all time.
Until next Monday