Bebop Spoken Here
Book Review: Laurie Pepper - ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman.
(Review by Lance)
One of the pivotal moments of my life was hearing Art Pepper in concert at, what was then, Newcastle's University Theatre. I was stunned! I'd never heard alto playing like it, nor had I witnessed a person visibly being destroyed by demons and being so able to rise above it. This was akin to the second coming of Christ (Charlie Parker) and I left in a state of shock. The following day, which would be May 11, 1981, I bought every Art Pepper album I could lay my hands on. This wasn't difficult as I worked in a Newcastle music store.
Another pivotal moment was the autobiographical tomeStraight Life written by Laurie Pepper from taped conversations with Art. This was a harrowing, unputdownable read that caused my friend, the late Brian Fisher, to say it made Anita O'Day seem like a nun! (O'Day's High Times, Hard Times is another tale of jazz and addiction.) After reading ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman, I'm tempted to say that Laurie makes the Art of Straight Life seem like a monk and I don't mean Thelonious!
It's a remarkable book written, this time, from her perspective rather than her husband's and it is as equally compelling as the first book. The two are inseparable. If you've readStraight Life then you must read this. If you read this one first then seek out Straight Life.
In passing, yes it's jazz history, but it's also a very powerful love story. A strange and unconventional love story but these are strange and unconventional people. One an artist capable of overcoming a mountain of set backs to produce some of the greatest modern jazz ever heard. The other a writer inspired by - and able to inspire - a genius. If Art Pepper had been a Country artist then the title would surely have been Stand by Your Man. Fortunately he wasn't and the title, laid on Laurie by an Australian journalist long before the book's conception, was recalled and proved a flawless choice in describing two far from flawless people! Together they have plumbed the depths and reached the heights. It is the latter position Laurie Pepper has achieved with this book (and Straight Life).