Fantasy's The Art of the Ballad series continues with a chronologically wide-ranging look at Art Pepper's way with standard tunes, splitting time almost equally between the two divisions of his career and striking emotional gold frequently. As good as the Contemporary label recordings from 1956 to 1960 are, Pepper's passionate, heart-stopping playing on the 1977-1982 selections from Galaxy simply put them deep in the shade; heard side by side, the earlier dates sound almost lightweight. The disc indulges in two selections from Pepper's string album Winter Moon (the title track and "Blues in the Night," where Pepper muses on the clarinet), but the emotional rush that they produce is worth the extra emphasis. There is also a spectacularly nuanced "You Go to My Head" from this period, live at the Village Vanguard, and two duets with George Cables from a month and a half before Pepper's death. Everything here is already out on CD; there is nothing from the peak late-period album Straight Life, and the sequencing is catch-as-catch-can, but this sampler is potent enough to give newcomers to Art Pepper a depth charge.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell