In the opening scene of notes a jazz survivor sees Art Pepper speaks candidly about his experiences with hard drugs up to his redemption away from that lifestyle. His autobiography ‘Straight Life’ ranks amongst one of the most literary works by a jazz musician and fits well amongst other pieces in the ‘beatnik’ canon.
When reminiscing over his childhood and his relationship with his mother to the backdrop of his own music , he sounds eerily familiar to Dexter Gordon’s character in Bertrand Tavernier’s ‘Round Midnight’. A film fittingly about a jazz musician who’s also an addict.
His musical peek can be said to be the late 1950’s when he produced a string of consistently brilliant albums on the Contemporary label in groups ranging from quartets to big bands, these being archetypal works of west coast jazz. Although this film was made in the 1970’s hearing him play shows that at that period he lost none of his spark.