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This 1979 quartet recording makes an ideal blindfold test for the most practiced of jazz piano admirers. From the "oscillating Martianisms" on electric piano of the moody opening track, "Solar Winds," to the rollicking cop-show funk (!) of "Teenager," it would be difficult to name - or convince the listener - that this is Oscar Peterson. Indeed, it is. Even more surprisingly, it is one of those super- rare and highly welcome all-Peterson programs - which makes it even more important in this grand pianist's discography.
Here, Peterson is in the familiar company of guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Louis Bellson - all Pablo regulars. So it is by no means the unusual "fusion" date the above pronouncements suggest.
In fact, Night Child may well be the best record Peterson made during the 1970s, a highly prolific period that produced much more high-profile music than this.
One listen to "Dancin' Feet," may even erase the hackneyed notion that the most personable of pianists lose all personality when they plug in. There's simply no question about who those dancing fingers belong to. Peterson surely gets electricity to swing. He can also plug in and deliver the most convincing, stylish signature blues too, as he does on "Soliloquy (Blues For Dr. John)," a nice feature for Pass too.
Peterson comes back to the acoustic piano for the long, lovely lullaby-waltz, "Night Child." When he returns to the electric keyboard for "Charlie," he seems to be challenging the listener to consider the beauty electricity lends to older ideas (the previous track, in this case).
From this listener's perspective, it is indeed the disc's most unusual tracks, the haunting "Solar Winds and the funky "Teenager" (which fades prematurely at 5:46) that are most notable. Peterson applies his great facility to bring out some of the best of two jazz styles that were done to death, and far less personably, during the 1970s. It's a joy to follow him on these two journeys. Indeed, Night Child is a surprise and a joy throughout.
Tracks:Solar Winds; Dancin' Feet; Soliloquy (Blues For Dr. John); Night Child; Charlie; Teenager.
Players:Oscar Peterson: acoustic and electric piano; Joe Pass: guitar; Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen: bass; Louis Bellson: drums.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.