Oscar Peterson Trio: Vancouver, 1958 (2003)
Some say Oscar Peterson is just a (highly capable) mechanic, and those would probably be the same folks who dismiss Art Tatum as a technical prodigy without invention. Whatever. You can look at it that way if you self-consciously cling to the cutting edge of jazzor you can take this measured serving of capable, intuitively connected improvisation and savor its sweeetness.
When you play with a pianist as broad-ranging and skilled as Oscar Peterson at the helm, it's essential to get on the bus and throw all your weight into the music. Bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis have no trouble doing this. The late bassist was always an effective glue in just about every situation, and Peterson always seems to bring out the best from Ellis. The guitarist's first notes in this performance, partway through "How High the Moon," dip briefly into gritty blues with a stretched pentatonic riff, then head off into more the sophisticated territory of swinging bop. How much of this program was planned in advance is not clear, but nobody seems to have trouble negotiating its hills and valleys.
Peterson's deconstruction of Clifford Brown's "Joy Spring" softens the bop piece and brings out a bluesy sweetness along the way. It's a nice, friendly tune. The rabid "I Like to Recognize the Tune" features the trio at full throttle, swinging like mad and spewing out notes everywhere. (Ellis is right up there with Joe Pass when it comes to technique.) A couple of classical-sounding passages follow, touching on Peterson's lyrical side and reflecting his bluntly romantic influences. And plenty more all-out jamming, of course.
This hour passes way too fast. Due to Oscar Peterson's consistent output, it's hard to classify Vancouver, 1958 as essential, but it's most definitely one of his freshest recordings. Quite honestly, it's hard not to enjoy.
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Track Listing: 1. How High the Moon - 10:43 2. We'll Be Together Again - 5:55 3. Joyous Spring - 6:03 4. Daahoud - 6:56 5. I Like to Recognize the Tune - 5:00 6. The Golden Striker - 6:07 7. Patricia - 4:46 8. Pogo - 4:11 9. The Music Box Suite (aka Daisy's Dream) - 11:17
Personnel: Oscar Peterson: piano; Herb Ellis: guitar; Ray Brown: bass. Recorded at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, August 4, 1958.
Record Label: Just A Memory