Jazz At The Philharmonic: Switzerland, 1953

C. Michael Bailey By

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Before the star-studded jam sessions of the 1970s Montreux Jazz Festivals there were the pioneering Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP) road shows, which toured from 1946 into the 1960s and put onstage together many of the greatest mainstream and modern stars of their times. Both Montreux and JATP were the brainchildren of Norman Granz, the jazz enthusiast and music business impresario also responsible for founding the prolific Clef, Norgram, Down Home, Verve and Pablo labels. The two discs considered here are fruits of JATP's European concert series in the early 1950s.

Oscar Peterson & Ella Fitzgerald
Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 15: JATP Lausanne, 1953

Pianist Oscar Peterson and singer Ella Fitzgerald enjoyed a long and critically acclaimed collaboration. Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 15 captures the two performing with JATP in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1953. Both artists are in their salad days on this recording, their music fresh and spontaneous. The repertoire is standard Fitzgerald: Gershwin ("Someone To Watch Over Me, "Lady Be Good, "The Man I Love) peppered with Rodgers & Hammerstein ("Surrey With The Fringe On Top ), W.C. Handy ("St. Louis Blues ), and Lester Young ("Lester Leaps In ).

Peterson was 25 and Fitzgerald 36 years old when these performances were recorded and both were already seasoned performers. But they were not so seasoned to attenuate the excitement of this performance. Peterson proves, even at this early date, to be a supreme accompanist for Fitzgerald, foreshadowing the recordings the duo would later make for Verve and Pablo. Sidemen for the date include tenor saxophonist Lester Young and trumpeter Charlie Shavers, each of whom retains their swing chops while venturing into late bop phrasing. The performances are loose but not sloppy, filled with plenty of invention and joy.

Oscar Peterson & Friends
Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 16: JATP Lausanne, 1953

From the same JATP concert which produced the Peterson and Fitzgerald album comes this Peterson & Friends set. The personnel expands to include alto saxophonist Willie Smith, guitarist Barney Kessel and an appearance on drums by Gene Krupa. The show kicks off with a plenty long (19-minutes plus) "C-Jam Blues sporting some very full-throated tenor blowing from Lester Young. No soft, transparent tone here—Young is almost walking the bar with his solo. Smith answers with an alto solo of his own, reedy and dry, that is inventive and on the swing side of bop. Kessel delivers a blues tour-de-force that approaches back to the future. Young takes another turn and then Charlie Shavers enters, mid-register, working his way with his crackling, gun-shot tone.

After Peterson introduces "I Cover The Waterfront, the listener is treated to what made Lester Young famous—his perfect, vibratoless tone. The band modulates through "Indian Summer and "Isn't It A Lovely Day, highlighted with solos by Peterson, Smith and Kessel. "Dark Eyes proves an able vehicle for Shavers, whose dense high notes and slurs punctuate his performance. Duke Ellington's "Cottontail provides another fast paced jam with more of Shavers' high notes and fast-footed playing by Young. The disc concludes with two bassless trio pieces with Gene Krupa on drums, recalling the same format with Benny Goodman a decade before. "Tea For Two is transformed by Willie Smith, who deftly performs the piece. "Idaho ends the disc on a swinging note. An album which is a welcome addition to all the involved muscians' catalogs.

Tracks and Personnel

Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 15: JATP Lausanne, 1953

Tracks: It's Only A Paper Moon; Someone To Watch Over Me; Lady Be Good; Why Don't You Do Right; You Belong To Me; Tisket A Tasket; St. Louis Blues; Lester Leaps In; Surrey With The Fringe On Top; My Heart Stood Still; Continental; Oscar's Tune; The Man I Love.

Personnel: Oscar Peterson: piano; Ella Fitzgerald: vocals; Ray Brown: bass; J.C. Heard: drums; Lester Young: tenor saxophone; Charlie Shavers: trumpet.

Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 16: JATP Lausanne, 1953

Tracks: C-Jam Blues; Medley: I Cover The Waterfront, Indian Summer, Isn't It A Lovely Day; Dark Eyes; Cottontail; Tea For Two; Idaho.

Personnel: Oscar Peterson: piano; Ray Brown: bass; J.C. Heard, Gene Krupa: drums; Lester Young: tenor saxophone; Willie Smith; alto saxophone; Charlie Shavers: trumpet.

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