Arthur Edward Pepper Jr. (September 1, 1925 – June 15, 1982) was an American alto saxophonist and very occasional tenor saxophonist and clarinetist. A longtime figure in West Coast jazz, Pepper came to prominence in Stan Kenton‘s big band. He was known for his emotionally charged performances and several stylistic shifts throughout his career, and was described by critic Scott Yanow as “the world’s great altoist” at the time of his death.
Art Pepper was born in Gardena, California, on September 1, 1925. His mother was a 14-year-old runaway; his father, a merchant seaman. Both were violent alcoholics, and when Art was still quite young he was sent to live with his paternal grandmother. He expressed early musical interest and talent, and he was given lessons. He began playing clarinet at nine, switched to alto saxophone at 13 and immediately began jamming on Central Avenue, the black nightclub district of Los Angeles.