Part of Omnivore Records' Art Pepper bootleg series, 2015's Neon Art, Vol. 2 showcases the legendary jazz saxophonist performing live during his tour of Japan in November 1981. Produced by Pepper's then wife and manager, Laurie Pepper, the Neon Art releases are culled from recordings the West Coast jazz musician made during the final years of his life. The late '70s and early '80s were a creatively fruitful period for Pepper who, with his wife's support, experienced renewed public interest in his music. Beginning in 1974, Pepper (by then a recovering drug addict) toured Japan regularly, enjoying the respect and admiration of the Japanese public. An architect of the West Coast jazz sound of the 1950s, Pepper broadened his style and approach to jazz in his latter years, moving in ever more expressive, bluesy, and even avant-garde directions. Recorded five months before his death in June 1982, these three live concerts feature Pepper backed by pianist George Cables, bassist David Williams, and drummer Carl Burnett. As with many of his latter-career recordings, these are lengthy recordings with the shortest, the propulsive, bebop number "Allen's Alley," clocking in at just under ten minutes. Elsewhere, Pepper delivers an epic, devastatingly heartbreaking rendition of Harold Arlen's classic "Over the Rainbow," and dives headlong into the funky "Mambo Koyama," a Latin-infused composition named in honor of Swing Journal editor and Pepper champion Kiyoshi Koyama.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar