Jazz Icons Series 3: Oscar Peterson Live '63, '64 and '65

C. Michael Bailey By

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Oscar Peterson

Jazz Icons Series 3: Live '63, '64 and '65

Jazz Icons


Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) had but one peer on jazz piano, and that was Art Tatum. While greatly influenced by Tatum, Peterson nevertheless developed into the superior blues player of the two. A veteran of Norman Granz's Jazz At The Philharmonic concerts before the end of the '50s, Peterson would evolve through the 1950s to lead perhaps the finest piano trio in jazz history, the one that included bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis. This format mimicked that same successful one devised by Nat King Cole in the 1940s. Eventually, Ellis would leave, the guitar replaced by drums, initially those of Ed Thigpen.

It is this latter format with drums that is showcased on the present Jazz Icons Series 3: Oscar Peterson Live '63, '64 and '65. This trio had been playing together regularly since 1958, their confidence readily apparent in these performances. The word Sympatico best describes the inter-relationship of the trio members. Should the reader find the term excessively abstract or vague, he or she need only bring up Ellington's "C-Jam Blues" from the trio's 1964 Denmark show to see sympatico in action. We are also treated to witnessing what made later pianists like Junior Mance and Gene Harris tick.

Peterson's command of the blues is so complete that he always included several in his shows. Additionally, the pianist had great regard for another great blues player, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, whose band mate in Dizzy Gillespie's famous big band rhythm section was none other than Ray Brown. The trio opens their 1963 Sweden date with Jackson's "Reunion Blues" which, along with the vibraphonist's "'Bags' Groove," is included in the Denmark program. Peterson the composer is shown off in his very successful "Hymn to Freedom," also in the Denmark set. This piece establishes Peterson, a Canadian, as a premier interpreter of American music, as the composition contains all of the church, blues, ragtime, and stride piano one would hope for in an introductory class on jazz.

Oscar Peterson never performed at anything other than the highest level. That said, these performances find the pianist at the height of his capability. He, with Brown and Thigpen, extend the language of the piano trio in the same way Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian did in 1961. The trio is joined by Roy Eldridge on "But Not for Me" at the Sweden Show and by Clark Terry during the entire Finland show. Seeing these icons, young and vibrant, before an appreciative crowd makes this particular Jazz Icons release even more special.

Tracks: Sweden 1963: Reunion Blues; Satin Doll; But Not For Me; It Ain't Necessarily So; Chicago. Denmark 1964: Soon; On Green Dolphin Street; Bags' Groove; Tonight; C- Jam Blues; Hymn To Freedom. Finland 1965: Yours Is My Heart Alone; Mack The Knife; Blues for Smedley; Misty; Mumbles.

Personnel: For all shows: Oscar Peterson: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Ed Thigpen: drums; Roy Eldridge: trumpet (Sweden); Clark Terry: trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals (Finland).

Production Notes: B & W/Color. Running time: 84 minutes. Sweden 1963: Mork Sang, SVT, Stockholm, Sweden, April 3, 1963. Denmark 1964:Swing it Oscar, DR VT, Holbaek, Denmark, May 2, 1964. Finland 1965: Live in Finland, YLE, Helsinki, Finland, Culture House, March 23, 1965. Twenty-four page booklet, Forward by Kelly Peterson. Liner notes by Doug Ramsey. Rare photographs and memorabilia collage.

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