Saturday, December 06, 2008

Jim Pepper House updated

Now that my time serving in the Oregon state senate is at an end, I am focusing myself on a project very close to my heart: Jim Pepper.

Although I never met this Great Soul personally, I was transfixed by his performance/presence at a Larry Coryell concert in San Rafael, California in the early 1970's. The name of the venue was, appropriately enough, Pepperland!

I left the concert without knowing his name, but more than thirty years later, I can still see him standing at the front of the stage, "Jim" baseball cap and lumberjack shirt, torrents and cascades of notes and pure emotion pouring out of that silver saxophone. He reached deep down inside of me, and I've never forgotten the experience.

I learned his name in 2002, shortly after I bought my home, which was the Pepper family home for many years. Jim had passed on several years before I moved to Portland.

I saw the Remembrance Band perform at the 2005 Portland Jazz Festival, the first time I heard Jim's music as a body of work, and he reached up there (I was in the balcony) and grabbed me again.

I spoke to Senator Gordly about the experience the next day as we rode to the Capitol together, and she assigned me to draft what would become a Senate Joint Resolution (SJR 31, 2005) honoring the life and achievements of the Flying Eagle.

Later, motivated by the need to hear the Remembrance Band again, I promoted two performances at Portland's Blue Monk.

In 2007, the Pepper family asked me to speak for them at the National Museum of the American Indian on the occasion of the dedication of Jim's saxophone and other memorabilia to the NMAI permanent collection. This is one of the singular honors and moments of my life....

This event gave me the opportunity to meet and hear the musicians of Yellowhammer, and to understand in greater depth Jim's place in the world, and in the history of American music.

Now, as the Nation faces grave economic times, I am convinced that the world needs Jim Pepper more than ever, and I am dedicating myself to organizing the first annual Jim Pepper Festival of the Arts, to be held in Portland Oregon in 2009.

I invite all comments, from near and far, for one thing we know for certain is that Pepper Lives!


John Collier said...

Hello Mr. Cruz-
Visited "jim pepper house" for the first time today-the link over at Jim Pepper Lives was a little wacky but I finally figured out how to get it to work. So I just had to write. First off-a big "Thank You". A wonderful site for a wonderful musician and person. Love the story about how you got into Jim's music and just love the synchronicity of the whole thing. I'm going to paste in here an email I sent to Bugsy Siegel regarding Jim, he had asked for any recollections of Jim's concerts so I sent this along:
"Hello Bugsy- Saw your post re: Jim Pepper on Jazz Corner and thought that I would write. Ah. where to begin?
I guess the beginning wouldn't hurt. I'm shaky on the dates so bear with me.
I'm 16 or 17 listening to WNEW 102.7 in New York, back in the hey day of free form radio,when a piece of music comes on that totally blows me away. It's "Witchi Tia To" from "Pepper's Powwow" . Sonically It speaks to me as very few compositions have ever done before or since. A world opens-here is truth. Needless to say, I run out and buy the album. I listen to it. And listen to it again. And again. And I STILL listen to it.
His music has gotten me though some rough times in my life. It's always been there for me. How can you explain that to someone?
Jim opened me up to a world I didn't know existed. He led me to Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders. Alice Coltrane,Don Cherry-the list goes on.
Let's fast forward to the mid 70's. I'd been searching for any info on Jim-where was he playing,did he ever play in New York,what was he up to? Then a friend of mine calls: " Are you interested in going to see Jim Pepper? He's playing in some Buddhist Temple downtown." Was I interested? Oh yeah. So we go. In a little room at the Temple. Never been to a Buddhist Temple. Maybe 25-30 people . Tops.
Stage is about 5 feet away from my seat. I can't stop smiling. I'm going to see Jim Pepper. The rest of the audience is smiling. We're all smiling like Cheshire cats. Like quiet Cheshire cats. After all, we're in a Buddhist Temple.
Jim's a little late. Suddenly there is a flurry at the back of the room and Jim and his keyboard player come in. My first impression?
This guy is like a force of nature-he's like a wind that just blew in. The monks rush over. Greetings are exchanged. Jim's rubs his hands together-takes a deep breathe and says: "Hey can we get a drink in here?" We crack up, take up a collection and send out for beers.
And Jim and his keyboard player (forgive me I never got his name) ROCKED! He PLAYED that night. Did it matter to him that it was only a small audience of 20-30 people? I don't think so -He PLAYED. And I think that was part of his genius. I imagine he would have played like that, even if there was no one there. I often think of that night. How I had the great good fortune to sit in a Buddhist Temple on the lower East Side and listen to Jim Pepper play his incredible music."

You got the right of it when you wrote that Jim's music reached deep down in you-it had the same effect on me and still does.

I would love any information regarding the Jim Pepper Festival as it becomes available. My dad's family is from Oregon. My Grandfather was a homesteader and vet in Portland and around Hebo and although I live in New York,(how the family got to New York is a whole other story) I've always promised myself a trip back home to Oregon. So this would be great opportunity to combine two of my favorite things.
So thank you for the website and thank you for your work getting the recognition for Jim and his music that it so richly deserves.
Pepper indeed does live.
Best regards,
John Collier

sean cruz said...

Hi John. I appreciate your Jim Pepper story and comments. We're making good progress on the 2010 Jim Pepper Arts Festival. Get in touch with me, I'd be happy to talk any time. Sean