The Jazz Legacy of Jim Pepper: An American Original


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Keep an eye on this spot. I plan to keep adding interesting Web site links, to other musicians and other venues mentioned in some of the articles. I’ll try my best to keep these up to date, but sometimes publications die off, sometimes musicians change management agencies, and sometimes articles are pulled off Websites as they age.

If you have a Web site you think should be included, just send it along to me — that’s what the “Comments” box is there for, down at the bottom of the screen!

Here are a few just to get you started — just click on the name to link to their site:



John-Carlos Perea
Currently doing doctoral work on Jim Pepper at UC Berkeley, he’s also an accomplished electric bassist, cedar flutist, singer, and composer/arranger. He has two CDs, available through his Web site, that are must-haves for any fan of Jim Pepper – any fan of good music, for that matter! “Gathering of Ancestors” and “First Dance”. He is also featured on vocals and hoop drum for two renditions of “Witchi Tai To” and other songs, on the Paul Winter Consort’s recent “Crestone” CD, which grabbed a Grammy in the “New Age” category.
Reuben Hoch’s Chassidic Jazz Project
A unique adventure: Reuben used to share an apartment with Pepper in Brooklyn, right in the middle of the Chassidic Jewish neighborhood where Reuben grew up. Like Pepper, Reuben was raised in an ancient tradition, learning the ritual songs and prayers of Judaism. And, like Pepper, he eventually took the leap to combine what he learned in those songs with what he wanted to do in jazz. He says that Pepper was the “main driver” behind the Project, even though he’d been gone for a few years before Reuben formed the group (which is actively performing and based in Florida).
Joe Lovano
We all know that Mr. Joe Lovano is a Grand Master saxophonist and composer. But what many people don’t know is that he is an incredibly generous, warm-spirited, and big-hearted man who hesitated less than a nanosecond before agreeing to talk to me about his years working with Pepper in Paul Motian’s group. Joe still thinks about Pepper, and still wonders how he might handle some of the solos that come up on stage when he’s playing.

Charlie Haden

If Joe Lovano is the Grand Master of the Saxophone, Charlie Haden is the Emperor of the Double Bass. He recruited Pepper into his Liberation Music Orchestra, and appears on the band’s “The Ballad of the Fallen” album. This is a sentimental favorite of mine, since it’s the first full recording (on a little cassette tape, no less) I ever owned with Jim Pepper on it.

Dan Balmer
Dan goes back many years with Jim Pepper, playing bass with him in the early years, beginning at least when they were in junior high school together in Portland, Oregon. He has nothing but fond memories of his late friend, and still loves to play his music.
Barry Bergstrom
Barry is a saxophonist who I “met” on the Internet after he came across my earlier Web site. We’ve correspended a lot about Pepper and about the current music scene. He is part Abenaki Indian (originating in what are now the Northeast U.S and Southeast Canada), and has produced his own tribute concerts in Jim Pepper’s memory. After all this time, I hope that I can actually meet Barry one day.

Dave Liebman

“Lieb” must work at least 30 hours a day, 8 days a week, with no stops for sleep or food, in order to produce the work he does, and do all the teching he’s committed to. An old friend of Pepper’s, he remembers him fondly and says that Pepper had a “fat sound” on his tenor. He founded the International Association of Schools of Jazz; was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame in 2000, received an honorary Doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, and is a damn good musician and a real mensch.

Bert Wilson
Bert, a saxophonist, knew Jim Pepper well “back in the day”, as he would put it. He tells stories about how he and Jim would sit across from each other with their saxophones, trying to outdo each other with new sounds and effects that they could “invent” with their instruments, some of which found their way into their music. Watch the “Pepper’s Pow Wow” movie, and try not to be transported when Bert plays and talks about Pepper’s rendition of Coltrane’s “Naima” on the Everything is Everything album. He says there was nothing like before, and nothing like it since. And watching Bert as he gets virtually lifted out of his wheelchair by the music gives you more than a few insights into the power of Jim Pepper’s music.

Claudine Francois

A wonderful pianist and composer, she recorded the album “Camargue” with Pepper, John Betsch on drums, and Ed Schuller on bass. It’s an absolutely wonderful album, and in my book it’s one of the best in the Pepper discography, showing off a wide range of btoh Francois’ and Pepper’s talents. Definitely a recording that belongs in every Pepper fan’s library.
Oregon is known as one of the finest groups ever to paint a musical landscape of global proportions. For three decasdes, Oregon has inspired audiences in renowned concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, and Vienna’s Mozartsaal. They have recorded “Witchi Tai To” on several of their albums and CDs, and continue to keep in their performance repertoire.
Pura Fe
A brilliant and powerful singer/songwriter/musician — Pura Fe is also a poet, teacher, and activist. She is the founding member of the internationally renowned Native women’s a capella trio, “Ulali”, and is recognized for having created new genre, just as Pepper did, by bringing Native contemporary music into the “mainstream” music industry.

Archie James Cavanaugh

Archie recorded a very soulful album of original songs, with Jim Pepper on some of the tracks. He’s been compared to Boz Scaggs, a blues-tinged soul singer in his own right. Cavanaugh’s “Black and White Raven” came out around 1980, and seems to be still selling in Japan!

Jim Pepper House

Sean Cruz has created a site that keeps track of performances and events by musicians carrying on Pepper’s legacy through the Remembrance Band. Photos and news of performance abound — so check his site every now and then to see what the Remembrance Band is up to.


“Listen to Your Own Voice…”
Interview with Sandra Osawa (In Motion magazine). Sandra and Yasu Osawa produced and directed the award-winning “Pepper’s Pow Wow” documentary, originally for PBS. Since it’s release in the 1990s, it has been screened in theaters and classrooms across the country, and has become an indispensable part of any serious study of Jim Pepper. But it is also an excellent starting point for anyone looking for an introduction to Pepper and his legacy. Contact them at or visit for a catalogue of their films.
Jim Pepper Legacy in Recorded Music
by Jim Olding (In Motion magazine). this may be one of the first “serious” entries on the Web about Pepper, and includes a discography of selected Pepper recordings. Olding, a Portland, OR jazz DJ, wrote this as celebration of the life and legacy of Jim Pepper. It appears in the same issue of In Motion Magazine as the interview with Sandra Osawa.




There’s no better way to describe these publications than to say that they –in addition to the actual musicians and the small handful of young scholars – are where the Jim Pepper legacy is being kept alive. Some are online e-zines, some are record labels, some are awards organizations, and all deserve support from anyone who is a fan of Jim Pepper. Check these sites often, and give them your support.

It’s just what it says: All about jazz. Check it daily. Make it your home page. There is literally something new everyday.

Asian Improv aRts

Asian Improv focuses on music by Asian-American artists – such as the Asian American Orchestra and Vijay Iyer, but has branched out and diversified to include recordings by the likes of Max Roach, Art Blakey, and above-mentioned John-Carlos Perea and his bandmates. Check them out for their full list of artists and available recordings.

First Americans in the Arts (FAITA)
FAITA honored Jim Pepper with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He joined other FAITA award winners, such as actors Wes Studi, Irene Bedard, Lindsay Wagner, and singers Rita Coolidge, Charlie Hill, and Floyd Red Crow Westerman (also known for his acting).

In Motion Magazine
A socially progressive publication, In Motion covers art of all kinds, populist politics, interviews with activists from around the world, and much, much more. A unique online publication – I haven’t seen anything else quite like it anywhere else.

Oregon Music Hall of Fame

(which inducted Pepper in 2000, when he joined Oregonian illuminaries ranging from Doc Severinsen to Paul Revere and the Raiders, and from the band Oregon to The Kingsmen, and from bluesman Robert Cray to bassist David Friesen)

Native American Music Awards (NAMMYs)

In 2000, Pepper was inducted into the NAMMY Hall of Fame, joining such Native stars and innovative artists as Link Wray, Kitty Wells. Crystal Gayle, Hank Williams, and Jim Hendrix(!). Think about the power of a fantasy group jam with these people playing together!

Portland (OR) Jazz Festival News

The newsletter of the Portland Jazz Festival – an annual extravaganza that’s always filled with some of the biggest jazz names of the day, from a wide range of jazz styles and eras.

Written by Bill Siegel

March 8, 2008 at 5:43 pm

3 Responses

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  1. 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

    FRANCOIS Claudine

    March 16, 2008 at 8:46 am

  2. [NOTE FROM BILL: It will be my pleasure to add Claudine’s website to the links section: — a wonderful, warm person and a wonderful, smokin’ musician! “Camargue” is also one of my favorites, and should be part of everyone’s Pepper collection! — Bill]


    March 16, 2008 at 3:44 pm

  3. There is plain a lot for me to study outside of my books. Thanks for the wonderful read,

    Tod Cooper

    February 2, 2010 at 1:35 am

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