Art Pepper-Notes from a Jazz Survivor (1982)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 12-Feb-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 46:37
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don McGlynn
Winter Moon Prods.
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Art Pepper
Laurie Pepper
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Art Pepper

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, + drug references
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I have recently selected three jazz DVD's for review, of which this is the third. The first was The Gadd Gang - Live on Digital Video, followed by Kenny Drew - Live Brewhouse Jazz, both of which I enjoyed. This is a quite different DVD to those in that it is a documentary film about the life of Jazz great, Art Pepper, made just before his death in 1982, rather than a live performance. It does include some excepts from a live performance at Pasquale's, a club in Malibu, California but the focus is on the man himself, his music, life and loves.

    Art Pepper is an alto saxophone player of great emotional intensity who combined two different styles of jazz, the cool style and the bebop style. He had a long recording career and a long battle with heroin & alcohol and spent significant amounts of his life in prison, especially during the 1960s. This documentary is a warts and all look at his life, featuring extended and brutally frank interviews with Art himself and his then wife, Laurie. They discuss his drug addiction, alcohol problems, his feelings about music and his ability to express his emotions through it, his childhood, crime and his prison terms, his previous wives, his difficult relationship with his daughter, his health issues, physical appearance changes, love and their relationship. It is very personal and honest and gives a great insight into the mind of a jazz musician.

    Also included are some songs from a live performance with his band of talented musicians who have recording careers in their own right, Milcho Levlev - Piano, Bob Magnusson - Double Bass & Carl Burnett - Drums. The songs are unfortunately interrupted by voiceovers or interview snippets which, although interesting, do disrupt the music. Unfortunately, the camera work during the live performance leaves something to be desired as it is quite dark and quite often too close to the performers. Other songs are included as background music during the film. The three live songs included are:

  1. Red Car - An Art Pepper composition from his album, The Trip (1976).
  2. Patricia - A song he wrote for his estranged daughter which appeared on his album, Early Art in 1956 and was re-recorded in 1978 for Art Pepper Today.
  3. Miss Who? - Another Art Pepper composition which plays during the closing credits. Appeared on his 1978 album, Art Pepper Today.

    This is a fascinating documentary on the difficult life of a jazz great which is open, honest and very personal. Recommended for Jazz fans despite its short running time.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is acceptable considering the age and low-budget nature of the material.

    The feature is presented in a 1.29:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is most likely the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite soft throughout, not unexpected for a low-budget film from the early 1980s. There was some grain throughout. The video has been transferred at a high bit rate. Shadow detail was poor, especially during the live performance.

    The colour was dull and included some chroma noise. The blacks tended toward dark blue.

    There were quite a few film artefacts, consisting of flecks, specks and marks. Some were fairly large. There were also some tape tracking issues such as at 16:02 & 45:40.

    There are no subtitles.


Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is fair but has some problems.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 224 Kb/s.

    The dialogue was mostly clearly understandable, although a little muffled here and there.

    The music comes across reasonably well, however it was a little muffled during the live sections. Also, during the final credits the live song included some distortion and dropouts.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer are not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included a still photograph, music and the ability to select scenes.


    A text based selective discography of recommended albums by Art Pepper. 2 pages.


    One page picture of four other Jazz titles available from Umbrella.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This disc is available in Region 1 in exactly the same format except for PAL/NTSC differences.


    A intense, honest and revealing documentary about the life of Jazz great Art Pepper.

    The video quality is acceptable.

    The audio quality is decent but not without issues.

    The disc has only text based extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Peter O

Comments (Add) NONE