David Amram remembers Jim Pepper
“Jim opened up a lot of doors to take people to places that they had never been before, and we all have to work to keep his legacy alive and open more doors for young people to inspire them to live their lives creatively and make a contribution to the world while we are here, the way Jim did." read more,
Rakalam Bob Moses remembers Jim Pepper
“Jim Pepper (Flying Eagle) was the heart and soul of The Free Spirits. For me, in terms of being touched, moved and healed by his soaring, majestic, instantly recognizable sound, he is in the top four saxophonists of all time. He was an absolutely unique, soulful, visionary musician who had a way of playing on changes that was all his own and borrowed nothing from Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins or anyone else…To this day, he is one of the few musicians who can bring me to tears with the heart-piercing beauty of his sound.” read more
Winona LaDuke remembers Jim Pepper
“One of the great indigenous musicians of all time.” read more.
The Oregon State Legislature remembers Jim Pepper
“Jim Pepper, born to Gilbert and Floy Pepper in Salem on June 18, 1941, blazed a unique trail across the musical horizon with his innovative synthesis of Native American song, the harmonic structures of modern jazz and the rhythms of Africa, South America and the Caribbean…“The members of the Seventy-third Legislative Assembly honor the extraordinary accomplishments and musical legacy of Oregon native son Jim Pepper….” – Senate Joint Resolution 31 (2005) read more
The City of Portland remembered Jim Pepper
“Whereas, Jim Pepper, who began playing at jazz clubs in Portland, was an unforgettable tenor and soprano saxophone player, singer, composer, dancer and bandleader; and Whereas, Jim Pepper has become one of the most important musicians and composers in jazz history—his unique style and blend of traditional Native American rhythms with African and Latin American jazz created a whole new style of music; and Whereas, in the 1960s, Jim Pepper and his band, The Free Spirits, were one of the first to fuse Native American song with the harmonic structures of jazz and rock to define a new genre of music that remains important worldwide….” read the full article, click here.
Bert Wilson remembered Jim Pepper
The legendary virtuoso genius multiphonic tenor saxophone player Bert Wilson was scheduled to perform with The Free Spirits Aug 9 and 10, but suffered a fatal heart attack in June. Bert left us this serenade titled For Jim Pepper: click here.
Bill Frisell remembers Jim Pepper
“I was so lucky to have known Jim Pepper. We spent a LOT of time together traveling all over the place. He was something else. One time going through a border security check in Europe somewhere …VERY early in the morning…after no sleep…a nasty guard stopped him and made him take out his saxophone …asked him to play something to prove it was really his…that he wasn’t smuggling it or something through. Man…you should have heard the sound he made. Woke up most of the continent. I miss him.” click here to read full article.

Sandra Sunrising Osawa remembers Jim Pepper
“I came across Jim Pepper, whose parents are Kaw and Creek and did initial shooting when he appeared at the National Congress of American Indians Convention in 1984. I was taken aback by what he did with the music, because I'd never heard a Native American jazz musician. We had done our share of listening to jazz, and I thought,’ Wow, how come I didn't know Jim Pepper existed? And if I didn't know he existed, not many people must know about him.’”

“Jim died in '92. After he died I became very angry and frustrated thinking, ‘This is a prime example that we can't get our stories funded because nobody knows, first of all, the people who are important to our communities.’ So when they (the funders) sit on panels asking, ‘Who's Jim Pepper? I don't know! So let's not fund them!’ It becomes a Catch 22. How do you get a project funded that's important to one community, but other people have no knowledge of it?” – In Motion Magazine
OPB Oregon ArtBeat remembered Jim Pepper
Jazzman Jim Pepper: “Beginning in the late 1960s, Jim Pepper became a pioneer of fusion jazz. His primary instrument was the tenor saxophone and his characteristic incisive, penetrating tone and soulful delivery was unique for its time. Of Kaw and Creek heritage, Pepper also combined elements of jazz with American Indian music. There have been three recent concerts of his work in Portland and one at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.” –Oregon ArtBeat 2007

John Betsch remembers Jim Pepper
“We met the summer of 1966 at a jam session in NYC with Chris Hills and a couple of others whose names escape me, and I was stunned by his sound and spirit. He was complaining about his chops and that special horn that I eventually took to Selmer for repairs, beginning their special relationship, and which is now in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

“We met in 1981 at a festival in Austria when he was with Don Cherry and I was with Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron and Santi Debriano, who became key players in our lives later.
We realized we were neighbors in Park Slope and thus began our close association, playing together in the Park and at the home of Gordon Lee where Jim was staying. read more
Photo by Genevieve Shiffrar © 2012 by Genevieve Shiffrar
John-Carlos Perea remembers Jim Pepper
I was first introduced to the music of Jim Pepper while studying for my undergraduate degree in Music at San Francisco State University. At that time I was listening to John Coltrane and also to pow-wow and Native American flute music. I knew there was a connection there but I did not understand how to make that connection in my playing and in my life. I spoke to saxophonist Francis Wong at that time about my interests and he loaned me his copy of Pepper’s Dakota Song. That loan led me to research Pepper’s discography and eventually to Pepper’s performance of Coltrane’s “Naima” on Everything is Everything featuring Chris Hills.
Hearing Pepper play “Naima” helped me finally make that connection between jazz and intertribal Native American music, a connection that set me on my own career as an electric bassist, cedar flutist, singer, and composer. read more

The Oregon Music Hall of Fame remembers Jim Pepper
“Jim Pepper was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in its first Induction Ceremony in 2007. His talent and contributions to music in the state as well as around the world were tremendous. He has left an everlasting impression on many music fans as well as influenced numerous musicians.” –Terry Currier, President

The Oregon Music Hall of Fame honors Oregonians who have made outstanding contributions to, or significant impact on the evolution, development, and perpetuation of the music industry.

Luciana Proaño remembers Jim Pepper
"Hey, do you know Jim Pepper? You should meet him!" That was Nana Vasconcelos when I ran into him in Miami in 1988. A few months later I met John Betsch and did some improvisations with him in Paris, he asked me, "Do you know Jim Pepper? You should meet him!" At the end of 1988 I met JB Butler and fell in love. In one of our very first conversations he thought I should meet one of his best friends: Jim Pepper! So when I did meet Pepper in 1989 it was as if we had always known each other. I never asked if our mutual friends had ever told him about me.
I don't think so. It did not matter, they were all correct in that we should meet. Silence was a comfortable place and that makes for real friendship. Jim was a courageous and generous person rooted in his ancestry and ready to fly with no boundaries. He embraced life. He liked to say that a good performer needed to tighten his butt and believe in himself. A true artist, who was not shy! I'm glad he was part of my life and an inspiration to my family. I'm also honored to have performed with him at Lincoln Center in New York. I remember Jim as a very inclusive soul.

Jim passed away on the day he was scheduled to perform with us in Perú. He kept his hopes high until the very last minute asking me not to cancel the show because he felt he could still make it. Such was his positive attitude and his living in the moment. I loved Jim Pepper.
Marti Cuevas remembers Jim Pepper
In the early 80s I was living in Madrid, Spain. In those days we were total “bohemios.”  We didn’t give a shit about money, and all we did was practice all day, and go play at night. Returning to the United States was a culture shock and a jolt to a sad reality. I was a mom with two kids, and I was forced to explore ways to generate enough dough to pay the rent.   Showing up for my children pushed me into the music BUSINESS.
My friend Barry Wedgle, a New York jazz guitarist and extraordinary composer, was part a member of our close-knit musical community in Madrid, and we were good buddies – we often played together. So when the Joe Lovano Quartet, featuring Jim Pepper, came to town, Barry told me I had to go – I simply could not miss it.  Barry had been Jim Pepper’s roommate in NYC, and was a first hand witness to Jim’s huge, juicy tenor sound. He told me that Jim filled the entire apartment building with music every day. (https://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/BarryWedgle)

I was already a fan of Joe Lovano, but I had never heard of Jim Pepper.  However, as Jim blew his first note, I became an instant convert.   I thought I had never heard a more amazing, gorgeous tenor sound – ever.  And of course, apart from an exceptional, soulful, humungous tone, his approach to improvisation was not typical, overly academic  – it was totally personal and fresh.  For years after that performance, Jim’s playing was on my mind.

As time passed and my life path became complex and intertwined with money-making enterprise, I forgot about Jim – until last year.  I had recently become totally fixated on Native American culture, and his name came up, stirring dormant memories.  So I started downloading all of Jim’s music, reluctantly admitting that the digital delivery of music has definitely brought us easy access to a super-wide spectrum of music;   some of Jim’s albums were instantly available.

That was when I came across the Oregon ArtBeat videos (links below) where I heard the story of a person who had moved into a house in Portland, Oregon; and who subsequently – and mysteriously - fell in love with Native American culture.  After a time, this person – who I now know to be Sean Aaron Cruz, discovered he was living IN Jim Pepper’s house.  And since then, Sean has been on a mission to promote Jim’s musical legacy, keeping a promise he made to the artist’s mother, and to bring to the forefront the amazing Native American cultures in the Portland area that have been marginalized and ignored through the decades.

Kudos to Jim – R.I.P. and kudos to Sean – may Jim’s music continue to inspire!

Oregon ArtBeat: Jim Pepper, pt 1 ~ Oregon ArtBeat: Jim Pepper, pt 2