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ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman Paperback – May 8, 2014
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About two-thirds the way through her memoir, ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman Laurie Pepper plants her spear in the dirt and declares the obvious:
"A question I ask myself is if Art hadn't had me there constantly assessing his mood, taking his aesthetic temperature, would he then have had to push his vision by himself? I think somebody else, another friend or lover, might have done it...But what matters here, to me in my story, is that I played an important part in projects of undoubted value and knew it at the time and was thrilled and am proud now."
And it is about time.
Thirty-five years after the original publication of Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper (Da Capo, 1994, revised edition) Laurie Pepper has finally put a fine point on a hard truth. What she enabled was a behaviorally-difficult, emotionally stunted genius to take root and flower late, producing art of enduring beauty and significance. This book has Art Pepper mentioned in it, but it is not about him. It is about Laurie Pepper and what she has to teach us about life on its own terms and that one does not merely wish to endure, but ultimately prevail.
Is Laurie Pepper's book about music?
During her cathartic coda, Laurie Pepper becomes nakedly candid about her feelings and motivations. She shares both an incredibly painful and stark life episode juxtaposed against a youthful, innocent and sensual experience, finally equating the two experiences in a summation of her troubled and brilliant husband:
"At his best, Art found beauty in everything, even in harshness, pain, and violence. And in his music, if you pay attention, you can hear the promise. The promise is the moment of a held breath when you know, you know it is all beauty and you are reconciled with your existence in this world."
It is all beauty and you are reconciled with your existence in this world.”
Review by Lance Liddle in BEBOP SPOKEN HERE
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 tome Straight 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! 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 read Straight 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 setbacks to produce some of the greatest modern jazz ever heard. The other a writer inspired by - and able to inspire - a genius. 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).
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Art Pepper was a musical genius. He was, like many geniuses, especially musical geniuses, charming, amusing, and difficult. Laurie's two main tasks in their relationship seemed to be getting and keeping him straight (off drugs) and getting him and his group to the stage on time. She gives us the nitty gritty on what it took to do this.
"Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman" opens to us a love affair, a marriage, as well as the 'jazz scene' of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's and Art and Laurie's travels in Europe and Asia. Art played. Laurie saw the insides of airports, hotels, clubs, eateries, hotels and airports - not a Cook's Tour.
She doesn't spare us, herself, or Art. The title says it all: Art: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman. But do read the whole story. Fascinating. Ms. Pepper's truth comes shining through humor, affection, love, and loss, but most of all love.
Along with that already informed and solid simpatico was a real meeting of the minds, as reader/fellow writer to her writer.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A fascinating book and a great complement to Straight Life by The same author.Published 5 months ago by Steven D. Hubka
Great book for Art Pepper fans. It was very honest and intimate. Laurie Pepper was his salvation. Without her, the beautiful tune," Our Song" would never have been written. Read morePublished 7 months ago by F. Mileti
This woman can write. Her best work is when she unabashedly blows the whistle on herself. Her story about living with and for Art Pepper covers all the emotions. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Bill Hurme
Wanted to read the book because I knew Art and know Laurie. I always wondered how Laurie stayed with Art and now I know. No denying that Art was truly one of the greats. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Mary Hula
Outstanding look at the personal life of Art Pepper, a jazz musician I've loved for years. Laurie Pepper does an outstanding job of telling it like it was.Published 13 months ago by Joseph Kerrigan
Wow! What Art Pepper had done, Laurie Pepper has done -- immortalized herself by creating a beautifully rendered work of Art. Brava! An excellent life story! Read morePublished 13 months ago by jdmcox
Vivid and informative, the perfect sequel to 'Straight Life".. Thank you Laurie for sharing your life and Art with us.
- with love
I preferred the autobiography but Laurie's version is still essential in trying to understand the enigmatic but legendary figure of Art PepperPublished 14 months ago by Finocchiaro