The Jazz Legacy of Jim Pepper: An American Original

“Here was something truly American…”

with 60 comments

Jim Pepper (1941-1992)

by Bill Siegel

courtesy of photographer Ron Schwerin

Jim Pepper, the son of a Creek Indian mother and Kaw father, grew up surrounded by the songs and dances of the intertribal powwow circuit. He learned Native American Church peyote chants and other songs from his father, Gilbert Pepper, and grandfather, Ralph Pepper. Originally from Oklahoma, his family moved to Portland, Oregon, where he was born – although he spent many summers back in Oklahoma with his grandfather’s family.

In the mid-1960s, he left home to make a name for himself in New York – which he did by exploding onto the scene with what may very well have been the first jazz-rock fusion band, Free Spirits. That early, innovative group – with Bob Moses on drums, Larry Coryell and Columbus Baker on guitars, and Chris Hill on vocals and bass, along with Pepper on saxophone – recorded their first album, Out of Sight and Sound, for Rudy Van Gelder at ABC/Paramount in 1967. Following that, in the late 1960s, after Gary Burton “lured” Coryell and Moses into his own band, Pepper and the remaining Free Spirits formed Everything is Everything, and Pepper’s composition, “Witchi Tai To” – eventually his most well known song – soon became the band’s signature piece. Those early bands gained a reputation in the rock-and-roll clubs for starting their sets with 20-minute long, unaccompanied sax solos from Pepper, something rock audiences had never heard before. “Witchi Tai To“, based on a ritual chant he learned from his grandfather, was a major crossover hit on jazz and popular Top 40 lists around the world, and has been covered in nearly 100 recordings by countless pop and “world music” musicians.

Pepper was encouraged by Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman to dig deeper into his Native music and incorporate it into his jazz playing and composition (Cherry was well known for encouraging musicians around the world to look to their own indigenous music for inspiration). Pepper’s first album under his own name, Pepper’s Pow Wow, was released in 1971 on Herbie Mann‘s Embryo label, and includes his father, Gil (or “Gib”) Pepper. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Pepper recorded with a vast range of jazz greats, including Cherry, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Dewey Redman, Ed Schuller, John Scofield, Mal Waldron, and many others. On a State Deprtment tour with Cherry, he enjoyed a particularly warm reception from African audiences who applauded his unique blend of Native American music and jazz. According to Cherry, “The response in Africa was tremendous when Jim would play one of the pow wow pieces he had written… They realized that here was something truly American.” [emphasis added]

Not much has been written about the Native American musical contribution to the development of early jazz. But it’s there – and you don’t have to dig too deep to find it. Duke Ellington‘s sister, Ruth Ellington, once said that “All the credit’s gone to the African for the wonderful rhythm in jazz, but I think a lot of it should go to the American Indian.” And Joy Harjo, a Muscogee Creek poet and musician, who studied with Pepper, says that “Creeks had something to do with the origins of jazz. After all, when the African peoples were forced here for slavery they were brought to the traditional lands of the Muscogee peoples. Of course there was interaction between Africans and Muscogees!“A modern form of that interaction can be found now in the music of people like Jim Pepper, who based some of his pieces on traditional stomp dances, as well as on Native versions of Baptist hymns, in addition to the ritual chants of his grandfather.

cg_jp_frontPepper’s 1983 album, Comin’ and Goin’ (Island Records), features Cherry, Scofield, Frisell, Schuller, Nana Vasconcelos, Collin Walcott, and others from both jazz and the nascent world music genre. At the center of this cleanly produced and meticulously performed recording, was Pepper’s soulful saxophone – a combination of gritty R&B, Coltrane-esque wails, plaintive chants, and earthy humor.

Drummer Reuben Hoch of the Chassidic Jazz Project (who had formed the group West End Avenue with Pepper in the 1980s), calls Pepper’s sound “absolutely unique… ridiculously fat and beautiful.” Saxophonist Dave Liebman, who says he learned a lot from Pepper in their younger Brooklyn days, also used the word “fat” to describe Pepper’s sound. Alaskan drummer Ron Thorne recalls that “he also had this real, pure R&B side to him that few people knew about. A real, nasty, dirty, funky side.” Recalling gigs in Alaskan dance clubs during the pipeline-fueled boom times, Thorne says of Pepper’s band: “They’d sneak in some straight-ahead jazz tunes and some fusion-oriented material whenever possible… damn, they were funky, too!

But at the base of it all, there was always Pepper’s commitment to the power of music and to its healing message. “The emotion most prevalent in his music,” says mother Floy Pepper, “is intense spirituality.” World-renowned saxophonist Joe Lovano has said that he still thinks of Pepper and that he will sometimes ask himself, “What would Jim do now?” before launching into one of his own solos.

Pepper spent most of his final years living and performing in Austria, where he was wildly popular. According to Hoch, “they loved him in Austria… loved him. He never got that kind of recognition here. It’s too bad… more people should know about him, they should know his music.” Thorne remembers that Pepper “complained bitterly about America’s lack of support for jazz. That’s why he went to Europe. It’s a typical story – they’ve made movies about it, written books about it, how jazz musicians had to leave America.” His mother has said that “he did not find respect and acceptance of his music in America – but he did find it in Europe, where he was respected as a person and as a jazz musician. There he found peace.

Jim Pepper was posthumously granted the Lifetime Musical Achievement Award by First Americans in the Arts (FAITA) in 1999, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame at the 7th Annual NAMMY Awards ceremony. In 2005, the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Insititute and the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission named Pepper Jazz Musician of the Year at the Portland Jazz Festival. In April 2007, his legendary silver Selmer saxophone, beaded baseball cap, leather horn cases, early LPs, and original sheet music were donated by the Pepper family to the Smithsonian Institution for National Museum of the American Indian‘s permanent collection. In October 2007, he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. And in 2008, the Paul Winter Consort recorded the CD, “Crestone“, which includes two versions of “Witchi Tai To” sung by John-Carlos Perea and which won a GRAMMY Award in the New Age Music category.

Pepper’s legacy lives on in bands like the Remembrance Band, made up of a somewhat fluid gathering of former Pepper bandmates around a core made up of vocalist Caren Knight-Pepper (Jim’s wife), and pianist Gordon Lee, and also including at times, bassists Ed Schuller and Glenn Moore (one of the founders of the band, Oregon), and guitarist Bill Bickford, among others. There’s the previously mentioned John-Carlos Perea, who has transformed several of Pepper’s song back to a more traditional song, the Albuquerque band, Red Earth, who described their music as encompassing rock, blues, hip hop, and “death metal” and credit Pepper as one of their main influences, Pura Fe and the a capella group she co-founded, Ulali, and many, many others who are keeping Pepper’s legacy not only alive, but modern and contemporary.

And, as anyone who said “I’ll see you later” to Pepper probably remembers, his response was usually, “No, I see you now!”

Jim Pepper, you sang to us:  “Do not forget me/When I’m long gone/Because I loved you/So dearly, Sugar Honey.”

This if for you, Jim. We will not forget you when you’re long gone.

# # #


Written by Bill Siegel

February 22, 2008 at 1:59 am

60 Responses

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  1. From the time of our meeting in 1963, upon his arrival in NYC, until his untimely death, Jim Pepper was a personal friend and, when I re-entered the jazz scene as a player in 1982, he provided inspiration & support for my endeavors.

    The picture of Jim which illustrates this site is an alternate take from my photo shoot for the cover of “Comin’ & Goin'”, in 1983. I subsequently gave it freely to Jim for his personal use.

    I regard this project as a worthy and a spiritual one.

    Ron Schwerin

    Ron Schwerin

    March 11, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    • Ron Schwerin, Caren & “Crepper” Smith cut the original (unreleased) recording of Halleleu, later “adopted” by ENJA Records as Dakota Song. It was done in Schwerin’s studio, as I recall and it is a very moving performance. I’m going to search for the tape.

      David Ackerman

      December 4, 2011 at 11:59 am

  2. It is an honor to have known and made music with this innovator of the jazz world…

    I am glad there are people who still have the passion, and the good will to erect this site in his memory…

    the end is never the end if you have memories….

    in the moment ,

    dominic duval

    dominic duval

    March 13, 2008 at 1:55 pm

  3. From my first meeting with Jim at KJZZ-FM in Anchorage in the 70’s until our last embrace following a most memorable “Gathering of the Tribes” performance in Anchorage on June 19, 1987, I felt that I was enjoying a “brother” I’d never known prior to our chance meeting years before.

    It’s wonderful to know that I no longer seem to be waging a one-man crusade for an awareness and appreciation for Jim Pepper, a true “American Original”.

    This is a terrific site, and one which I hope will grow in depth, involvement and appreciation as years go by. I know that it’s been a labor of love — one inspired by our dear friend, “Flying Eagle.” Thanks, Bill.

    My wife and I dearly miss Jim, and treasure the many memories we have of his remarkable music and extraordinary friendship.

    Big Love, Caren~

    Ron & Patti Thorne

    Ron Thorne

    March 16, 2008 at 6:54 am

  4. FROM CLAUDINE FRANCOIS, pianist/composer:
    “Hello , that is a big work ! Congratulations . I thought you might add my website’s adress , since the CD “Camargue” I did with Jim was his mother’s favorite , and also part of the soundtrack in “Jim Pepper’s pow wow”.
    I hope you are well , and wish you the best”
    [It will be my pleasure to add Claudine’s website to the links section: — a wonderful person, and a wonderful musician. “Camargue” is also one of my favorites, and should be part of everyone’s Pepper collection! — Bill]


    March 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

  5. A few nights ago I was playing some music with strings for a pianist I’m involved with and his wife complained of having a headache and not supporting the sound of the strings. She then said, “I need some Jim Pepper.” It was particularly odd because I had listened to Jim earlier that day, something I don’t normally do. Since I first met Jim when I was a teenager I knew he was somebody special and that our destines would cross paths. I was very and proud to be able to get him to Europe where we did more work together than with anyone else. The quartet with Mal Waldron, Ed Schuller and myself made people cry. On his first tour with guitarist Bill Bickford, I will never forget the look of astonishment on Jim’s face during a gig near Vienna when the entire audience sang all the words to Jim’s songs. I was doing a gig in Germany with friends of ours when a wedding party came in after the ceremony. I just happened to have a cd of Jim in my pocket and gave it to the bride and groom as a wedding gift. After they mentioned having heard Jim in Austria, the bride and I looked at each other and immediately sang, “I don’t care if you’re married I still love you; I’ll get you yet!” Jim and I called each other the brothers we never had because we both had sisters as siblings. I miss him and try to put his music in as many places as possible.

    John Betsch

    March 17, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    • john, a lovely story! ( didja get’er yet?…) i’m wondering if don moye ever received your properly chicago-addressed letter that was delivered to my house in portland some yrs.ago. it was the most twilight zone-worthy co-incidence i’ve ever seen! & i’m happy to have just found this site. i’ll be in touch–there’s a major pepper fest in the offing for next yr> i’ll know more in 2 wks.

      jim olding aka jacques

      November 6, 2009 at 1:42 am

  6. I first met Jim Pepper in 1985 when he was a member of Paul Motian’s quintet (with Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell and Ed Schuller, what a fantastic band!). Later on we became friends, and Pepper always stayed in my apartment Munich when he was on tour in Germany. Being a saxophone player myself I still have Pepper’s incredibly beautiful and soulful sound in my head, a sound that was very special, unique and entirely his, so even now, 23 years later, everytime I pick up my horn I hear that sound in my head. One time Jim needed a neck for his horn, and I gave him one of mine, so I feel happy to have had the chance to give something back to him. Jim also had a unique way of playing the saxophone, a school in itself! People in Munich and Austria loved Pepper, and he will be in our hearts forever!

    Hermann Martlreiter

    March 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm

  7. Thanks, Jim and I shared many musical moments in Oakland, NYC, Europe, etc……………..

    famoudou don Moye

    March 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    • don, we met in portland in the ’90’s-i spoke w/ you on the phone about the letter from betsch that came to my house-did you ever get it?

      jim olding aka jacques

      November 6, 2009 at 3:30 am

  8. hey bill awesome that you got this together jim pepper was a big influnce on my music having done a couple tributes over the years it heartening to see this up on the web. more people should know jim and his music thanks tony

    tony wilson

    March 20, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    • hey tony! long time;long border (sigh) wheryat? if this site won’t give out e-mail see if you can find me on fb. i saw you on the youtube recently & i miss your energy.

      jim olding aka jacques

      November 6, 2009 at 1:48 am

  9. It was february ’05 around 09:30 pm and I was driving north along N-II (Barcelona – Girona) to go to work. I had Radio Nacional 3 on when suddenly enters the bass and then that voice out of the woods: “I hates the man”. I had to stop in the middle of the forest and listen through hoping someone would mention what that was..
    That’s when I discovered Jim Pepper, a moment I will always remember.

    Beautiful site Bill, keep it up!
    (Here’s a nice URL for you from Buenos Aires:


    March 23, 2008 at 12:42 am

  10. “This is John Wayne paper … it`s rough and tough and doesn’t take any shit!” said Jim to me and my wife Liane at the oncology-station in the Hanusch-hospital in Vienna in spring 1991, when he used the typical pink toilet-paper of this hospital to clean his fingers from tabasco.
    We`ll never forget Jim!

    Dear Bill! Thank`s a lot for your great engagement, your wonderful site and all your kindness. Sorry that I didn`t contact you for such a long time.


    March 27, 2008 at 9:00 pm

  11. Bill, thanks for putting this up. I added a link to your site at the end of my blog article on Jim Pepper. I hope that’s OK. Too bad Jim had to leave us so soon. Imagine what he might have done.

    Alastair Ingram

    May 17, 2008 at 12:46 am

  12. Sorry about the misspelled URL. My blog is at

    Alastair Ingram

    May 19, 2008 at 12:12 am

  13. thanks for this site; among my most inspirational musical experiences in new york were sessions at Ron Schwerin’s loft with Pepper; he was the very embodiment of soul and spirit and a great personal inspiration to me as a tenor player – last year i had over 100 elementary school students play and sing “dakota song” on their recorders and told them all about the extraordinary man named Jim Pepper.

    Jeff Lederer

    May 19, 2008 at 10:54 am

  14. Dear Bill – We didn’t know each other at Conard. But . . . I really enjoyed your picture and comments on the web site – couldn’t agree more with most of it. Go into the files and check out the really wonderful picture I snagged of Jerry in the late 80’s at a show at Frost amphitheater at Stanford. We saw the boys about once a month for the 8 years we lived there. Very, very sweet years. Go well.

    Dan Hanson

    May 26, 2008 at 10:50 pm

  15. I am delighted to run across this site – nice work! I was (and still am, in my heart) a saxophone student of Jim’s from back in Juneau, Alaska, in 1978 and ’79. Those few lessons made an indelible impression on my playing and a quantum leap in my technique on the sax. He was a true master, and I will always remember with great fondness the sense of awe and honor that I felt when he invited me up (at the tender age of 15) to sit in with him and his band at a little Juneau tavern.

    Ron Hawkins

    June 12, 2008 at 3:02 pm

  16. Here’s a new recording of “For Jim Pepper,” by the legendary Bert “Dr. Wheels” Wilson.

    david ackerman

    October 7, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    • David, this is great. I just came across it, 3 years after you posted it. I knew Bert in Berkeley in the mid 60s – met him about the same time as Zitro, Chip and Frenchie. It’s good to hear him and know he’s still playing.

      I put an arrangement of Witchi-tai-to on my most recent CD, kind of like the way we used to do it in Colorado. I’ll send you a link.

      Lindsay Haisley

      August 21, 2011 at 9:42 pm

  17. Ron Hawkins! I saw your post and wanted to say hi.
    I played Sax with you in Juior high. i hope to hear from you.

    Dan Albert

    October 27, 2008 at 11:22 pm

  18. In a half-century of creating and immersing myself in music, the single most emotionally devastating musical experience I’ve ever had was seeing Jim Pepper lead the assembled participants in a transcendent performance of “Witchi Tai To” to close the Collin Walcott memorial concert in New York City in 1985. The amazing cast of characters on hand to celebrate Walcott’s life included the surviving members of Oregon, Pepper, Don Cherry, John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Pat Metheny, Meredith Monk, and several others (including an obnoxiously inebriated yet amiable Jaco Pastorius making a brief cameo on, of all things, oboe). As “Witchi Tai To” commenced, everyone in the audience took up the melody and collectively broke into tears. I looked up and saw Egberto Gismonti standing beside me, crying his eyes out. Just thinking of that moment shatters me. The world badly needs exemplary human beings and musicians like the departed Pepper, Cherry, and Walcott. Many thanks for creating this site to honor Jim’s memory.

    Dennis Rea

    October 28, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    • Wow! Wish I could have seen this! And now more than ever – in 2021 we need healing.

      Natalie Chapin

      January 10, 2021 at 1:41 pm

  19. Here in Cleveland, they just played his song. It was also played about 3 months back. I love Witchi Tai To! I love Jim’s sax playing and the groove…it just moves me. I cried after hearing it. Thanks so much Jim, although you’re gone, you’re not forgotten! I have a Neil Young tribute band called Ragged Glory in NE Ohio, and he and I really appreciate the Native Americans and their Pagan beliefs. Love, Curt


    November 21, 2008 at 2:10 pm

  20. Hello All,

    this one is a little off topic –

    I am wondering what happened to my old friend Jim Henry, we went to high school together in Portland. Jim’s mom was Sue Pepper and and Grandpa was Jim Pepper.

    any clues drop me a line at


    January 7, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    • To Dave Baltzel,
      About your question, Jim Henry, son of Suzie, grandson of Floy and nephew of Jim Pepper is now working in anchorage, I think as director or curator of an art museum — unfortunately, I don’t remember details beyond that. I’d suggest you google: “jim pepper henry” anchorage and you’ll probably find news articles about his move there from D.C. where he had been assistant director of the Smithsonian;s American Indian Museum.
      – Bill


      February 15, 2009 at 9:35 pm

  21. Just a brief note – THANK YOU for creating this site. Someone as unique and beautiful as was Jim deserves more recognition, and you’re a part of accomplishing that task.
    I also attended that Colin Walcott memorial concert that Dennis Rea noted above. The assembled musicians performed in various combinations throughout the evening, but the closing rendition of Witchi Tai To with ALL the players, led by Jim, was a beautiful, invigorating, moving event.
    Also saw Jim perform in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, with a combo and several Native American performers; what a wonderful show.
    We’re poorer for his passing, but far richer for what he brought to the world during his time.

    David Payne

    February 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm

  22. if anyone can tell me how to get a copy of
    Witchi Tai To by Jim Pepper, I would be deeply garateful.


    February 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

  23. I met and played with Jim a couple times when he visited the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock NY in the late 70’s early 80’s. He had a gourgeous sound on tenor and was an inspiration to those he came into contact with.He played a Swollen Monkeys(new wave rock band) gig with us in NYC which showed how open he was to various musical settings. I last saw him at a club in the city with Randy Brecker and other prominent players in his band…..great music!

    Don Davis

    February 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm

  24. I was a classmate of Jim Pepper in Portland, Oregon,
    I can remember how popular he was with everyone, and
    can still see his ready smile, I wish I had gotten
    to know him better.

    Lanny R. Olin

    March 3, 2009 at 4:07 am

  25. Witchi Tai To played on WMMS a Cleveland radio station in, I think, 1970. I was in a suburban high school & had never heard anything like it. For some reason I thought of the song tonight, almost 40 years later. From memory I typed in ‘witchy tai to’ on google and that led me to Mr. Pepper’s performance saved on You Tube. My searching led me to this site.

    To this day I have never heard anything like this song, it is mesmerizing. Thank you Jim Pepper for making this old lady feel like a kid again.


    March 8, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    • I, too, remembered the song from high school in early 1970 when WFIL-AM in Philly played it frequently. The Native American sound of it was special to me because I had one girlfriend, briefly, who was part Cherokee and another who was part Powhatan. Why I never bought the 45 I don’t know, but in 1979, I thought of the song and could not remember the name. I hunted for the record in old recortd stores in Philly and wrote to the radio station and even Casey Kasem to try and track it down. WFIL used to publish listings of the top songs of the week in the late 60s and early 70s and I used to pick them up at the 7-11, the record store, and Sears record department. I had none of them left and could not find any of them listed anywhere. Finally, in the mid-90s, I found a web site, Lost 45s, that I wrote to and got the answer that the song was Witchi Tai To and by Everything is Everything (I remember I had use that as a snappy sentence in a report for science). Then, in 2001, when MP3s became a big thing, I found it. For days, i blasted it in my apartment and kept singing it. It always reminds me of Maureen and Sharon from back in high school and the fond memories I have of them.

      Floyd Miller

      October 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm

  26. Hello. Great stuff on here.

    I am looking for a specific Pepper song, and am wondering if you could help me locate it? All I know about the song is that the novelist/poet Jim Harrison describes it in his memoir, “[Pepper] sang a beautiful song that was mostly a recitation of tribal names, a song that should be played in every school in America.”

    Any idea of what song Harrison may be referencing? Thanks much,



    March 25, 2009 at 1:15 am

  27. I came to Pepper’s music through Don Cherry and Jan Garbarek in the mid-70’s and have looked for it since. I first heard the version of Witchi Tai To on Comin’ and Goin’ on NPR in 1983 — I was in the car with my wife. I pulled over to the side on the road and we listened intently to every note. I searched for and found the LP a few days later and cherish it, as well as all the Jim Pepper recordings I own. Thanks for your effort. What a great bunch of comments posted here!


    April 17, 2009 at 8:22 am

  28. wi-ya-yo (Coming and Going) is the song where he sinsg the names of tribes.

    Great piece of work this site. pepper was truly a treasure. I got to know him a little and listened to him play in the Greenwich Village jazz and blues club of NYC back in the 80s.

    Even measured against all the new American Indian performers today, his music and his spirit and style are unique. It is good to remember where we been and where we are going. he died to soon. Thanks for this tribute and notes from those who got to know him. Keep going.

    Turtle Heart
    Ojibway American Indian
    Keeper of the Four Directions Unity Bundle at the Eastern Gate.

    Turtle Heart

    May 12, 2009 at 5:11 pm

  29. Excellent !

    Jazz Music CD

    June 2, 2009 at 8:17 am

  30. i never met him,but jim has been one of my musical influences ever since i heard his first album.i still have that album almost 40 years later.i once heard a story that jim was involved with ocean fishing,but quit after the drownings of some friends.can you shed some light on this?also,are there any published biographies of jim available? thanks,love,peace and happiness- namaste’


    September 10, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    • Graham,
      Sorry for the long delay responding … you know what they say about life being what happens while you’re making other plans!

      I’m wondering which album you’re referring to? If you’re talking 40 yrs, I assume you must mean Pepper’s Pow Wow?

      The Alaskan drowning story is steeped in a bit of controversy, it seems. Among people who knew Pepper well, there are some who say it never happened, and some who say they heard the story directly from Pepper. The story is told in the liner notes of one of his albums from Tutu Records, and I guess it just all depends on who you choose to place your faith in about such things, since Pepper isn’t with us to confirm it or deny it. Just another one of those mysteries that will have to remain a mystery I guess!

      As for bios, there are no books, just some short and not very informative blurbs in a couple jazz “encyclopedias”, and the occasional article here and there on the Web. I do know of a few people who are working on, or have finished, Masters theses about Pepper (including at least one PhD dissertation that I know of, which is in process) — maybe one or two of them will eventually be published in book form. I will be sure to post any such news on the site as soon as I hear anything…
      = Bill

      Bill Siegel

      January 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

  31. Over the years I keep coming back and back to Comin’ and Goin’ and to Witchi Tai To, which refreshes my spirit, uplifts my heart and makes me give thanks and thanks and thanks to the sky, the earth and the heavens.

    Every listening to the album opens new corners for enjoyable listening.

    You his friends and you his other fans, consider with me how lucky we are we were given ears to hear this music and the technology to hear it whenever we need it.

    Thank you for this sit!

    Michael Bruno

    November 7, 2009 at 11:07 pm

  32. Of course, though I am sitting, with Comin’ and Goin’ on headphones, I meant “site”!!!!!

    Michael Bruno

    November 7, 2009 at 11:10 pm

  33. I only saw Jim in concert once, but I’ve never forgotten it. It was at S.O.B.’s in lower Manhattan, early ’80s, and it was with an all-star band that at least had Bob Moses on drums and I think Charlie Haden and Bill Frisell (can anyone further refresh my memory?). The highlight, though, was the finale of “Witchi Tai To,” when an unexpected trumpet was heard in the audience. Jim looked over and was truly surprised to see Don Cherry sitting at a table, playing along with his pocket trumpet. He joined the band onstage, and it was as magical a performance as I’ve ever heard.

    David Dean

    December 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    • David,
      That’s a great memory! The band lineup sounds likely, as Pepper played with all of them a lot, in various combinations through the 80s. Wish I could have been there, and happy to have you share the moment…
      – Bill

      Bill Siegel

      January 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm

  34. Dear Friends of Jim Pepper!
    Please go to our website to learn about the exciting festival planned for 2010, honoring the life and music of Jim Pepper. We need help! We need support! We need to know you all are out there! We look forward to hearing from you!


    Anne Morin

    January 21, 2010 at 10:48 pm

  35. Jim and I played together briefly about ’72 or so in the Anonymous Artists of America, where he and I made up the horn section in the band for a while. We learned Witchi Tai To from Chip (Columbus) Baker, who was a member of the Triple A, and had played with Jim in NYC with Everything is Everything. Pepper came and lived and played with us for several months in southern Colorado.

    I’ve recently recorded Witchi Tai To for a forthcoming CD of mine, and am looking for the person or persons who own the mechanical rights to the song so I can get a license and proceed with the release of the CD. No luck with Harry Fox. Does anyone have any suggestions as to whom I might contact?

    Lindsay Haisley

    February 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

  36. I met Jim Pepper while I was music student at Davis Center for Performing Arts Program at CCNY in the early 80’s. Jim inspired me to seek out all musics; and to do your own thing; don’t get caught up and keep exploring. He then proceeded to give me an autographed copy of his latest album entitled ” Comin and Goin” and told to me listen to his music and to keep” blowin hard little brother”; Jim knew I needed some inspiration; and music was his way to happiness… I learned alot from that record; especially his huge sound…… Tony Waka

    Tony Waka

    August 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  37. I was introduced to the music of Jim Pepper by a dear friend of mine who visited USA very often and connected with many people, family and friends there.
    Locally he was known in my area as ‘Crazy Horse’ he actually did a rain dance in a local pub in Bingley the landlord was livid later as it rained continuously for three days after he left..he was a great guy; a single parent of four and he and his late love in life Edna were great to be with.
    I am writing this because of the importance of true friends and all they are to us and how they bring so much joy to our lives but especially to acknowlege Jim Pepper

    Liz Narey

    November 3, 2011 at 6:18 am

  38. I can remember as a teenager, seventeen,listening to fm underground radio,WMMR in Philadelphia and their was this one particular DJ who would open and close out his program with witchi thi to.i fell in in love with the has a very up lifting and unique drive in its composition that whenever I hear it ,even today, it brings a smile to my face and joy to my spirit.thanks for the gift.

    Daniel Duffy

    September 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  39. Jim and Caren were my neighbors in Brooklyn on Montgomery Street, the last place Jim lived where there were actual full costume gypsies living in the basement and the rent was a negotiable feature like the heat…Jim used to practice all the time and used to want to borrow money to get his horn out of the pawn shop and we used to jam out so the downstairs neighbors used to bang on the ceiling with a broom, Charles Burnham from the James Blood Ulmer Band used to come around and I can remember hearing the refrain from Witchie Tai To which has earned a permanent spot in my brain.. Jim Pepper lives on forever

    e bernard

    November 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm

  40. anyone know where to get cds of “Peppers Pow Wow” and “Commin And Goin” ?

    dave landerman

    January 21, 2013 at 4:55 am

    • Pepper’s Pow Wow on CD is available on Amazon, but apparently is out of print again since the price has gone through the roof. I bought a CD copy in 2009 at a regular CD price, but the lowest price on Amazon is $139. Comin & Goin is also available on Amazon for $46.96.

      Lindsay Haisley

      February 20, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      • Lindsay, there’s no reason to pay top dollar for Peppers Powwow Wow. $139!! Whoever is pricing it like that is guilty of highway robbery! Look on eBay — there are always copies there at more down to earth prices. Good luck!

        Bill Siegel

        February 20, 2017 at 9:47 pm

  41. This is a nice site. I’m working on a piece on Pepper for a Norwegian magazine, and need some information on his stay in Austria. Haven’t been able to fond mich about it, and would be grateful If someone can direct me to a web site or people able to supply info.

    Petter Pettersson

    April 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

  42. Does anyone know if there was a song recorded for “Comiin and Goin” that may have been abridged from later pressings and or the CD? There is a piece with Lester McFarland doing a riff on the bass, a weird, funky, outside odd meter offbeat thing. It is only 8 to 16 bars or something. Fairly short but it’s really great and I can’t remember the name of the piece and my CD doesn’t have this piece. Anyone know what I’m refering to?



    September 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm

  43. triangle productions! (a professional theatre in Portland Oregon) is presenting a new work about Jim Pepper entitled THE JIM PEPPER PROJECT featuring Ed Edmo, Karen Kitchen, M. Cochise Anderson and Salim Sanchez and written by Donnie. The show will open May 8th (2014) at The Sanctuary @ Sandy Blvd – 1785 NE Sandy Blvd Portland OR. With help from Gordon Lee, Tom Grant and Jim’s own sister Suzie Pepper Henry – come share the life and times of Jim! or call us at 503-239-5919


    April 10, 2014 at 11:49 pm

  44. I made up a video of some snorkeling that I did at the lake beside my cottage and set those clips to Pepper;s Witchi-tai-to. I thought they went together well. I have gotten compliments on the music. A small piece of Peppernalia.

    Michael Davidson

    September 4, 2014 at 8:56 am

  45. Just discovered a fantastic tape of the 1985 European tour, recorded in Switzerland. Whoever is interested send me an email introducing yourself and your reason for wanting to hear this

    Adrian Linder

    November 9, 2015 at 8:39 am

  46. Friends: I found a hitherto unknown 1985 concert by Jim Pepper’s Pow Wow in Switzerland in the National Sound Archives. It is from the same European tour as the Paris concert documented on the Hunga Chee Adah CD, including 3 dancers and singers from Oklahoma. The sound quality is excellent (from soundboard). Performance varies considerably; while Pepper’s own presence is overall very strong, there are also weaknesses in the group as noticed on the CD. The venue was Hotel Mohren in Willisau, the date June 1st (so probably just a few days before the Paris concert). There is also some information that Pepper played in Switzerland the year before with Paul Motian; I was not able to confirm this. Does anybody know more? If you are interested please send me a private message introducing yourself (if we don’t know each other) and stating your motivation, possibly (but not necessarily) also offering something from your treasure vaults for change. I would then send you a link for download. This is for private use only and strictly non-commercial!

    Adrian Linder

    November 13, 2015 at 11:41 am

  47. Did he have a sister named Suzy Pepper?

    Pat Dessinger

    July 30, 2018 at 1:18 am

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