Oscar Peterson is on a short list as one of the most accomplished piano players regardless of music style and both these previously unreleased recordings remind us of this fact with a sampling of his playing through the decades.
With JATP Lausanne 1953, the Jazz at the Philharmonic musical idea was to present Swing-era jam sessions with some of the biggest jazz names in a concert setting. As the musicians get introduced onto the stage you can easily hear whom the audience came to hear: tenor man Lester Young and, of course, Peterson, who kicks off Ellington's "C Jam Blues complete with the left- hand grunts that were a trademark of Ellington's approach. He finishes his short solo with two-fisted harmonized lines with a swinging, carefree quality that disguises the technical difficulty involved. The ballad medley features three great saxophonists: Young on "I Cover the Waterfront , altoist Willie Smith on "Indian Summer and second tenor Flip Phillips on "Isn't This a Lovely Day . The single virtuoso feature concept continues into the performance of "Dark Eyes , a Russian folk song that is something of an exotic showpiece for trumpeter Charlie Shavers.
Perhaps the best features for Peterson's playing on this CD are the two trio - Peterson, Smith and drummer Gene Krupa - numbers that end the program. "Tea for Two and "Idaho feature some of the most astonishing, yet good-humored playing ever heard from Peterson, who is inspired by this smaller band of leading voices on their respective instruments. Here one clearly hears the lineage of jazz piano virtuosity passed down from James P. Johnson, Art Tatum and Nat "King Cole in his clear, fast single line passages through his remarkable stride technique.
Fast-forwarding to 1998 we hear What's Up? by the leaderless The Very Tall Band (Peterson, bassist Ray Brown and vibraphonist Milt Jackson), recorded live at Blue Note, who kick off their set with some more from the Ellington book - the infrequently heard Johnny Hodges composition "Squatty Roo (based on "I Got Rhythm in Bb), Jackson and Peterson trading solos with dexterity and joy. Peterson's solo on "Ad Lib Blues is astonishing: soaring across the keyboard at one moment, whispering and crying elsewhere. Jackson turns in a great solo before Peterson comes in again to take it home. On "The More I See You Peterson's playing is, as always, masterful and seems to be influenced by Jackson's funkiness. The live audience responds to that spirit very enthusiastically, captured that night for us all to hear now.
Tracks and Personnel
JATP Lausanne 1953
Personnel: Oscar Peterson: piano; Barney Kessel: guitar; Ray Brown: bass; J.C. Heard: drums; Flip Phillips, Lester Young: tenor sax; Charlie Shavers: trumpet; Willi Smith: alto sax; Gene Krupa: drums
Tracks: Squatty Roo; Salt Peanuts; Ad Lib Blues; If I Should Lose You; Limehouse Blues; Soft Winds; The More I See You.
Personnel: Oscar Peterson: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Milt Jackson: vibes; Karriem Riggins: drums.