The back cover photo on this two-disc set is a shot of the inimitable Oscar Peterson in a light-toned suit with a wide necktie that sports a swirling, quasi-paisley pattern. The photo's in black and white, but we can guess at a riot of colors; and that phrase could serve as a decription of Peterson's piano style: a light-hearted riot of swinging colors.
The two discs span Peterson's career from 1953 until 2000, covering a surprising array of styles and ensemble configurations, given that the pianist is best known for his work in the piano/bass/guitar trio format. The long span is a little misleading, though. Only two of the tunes here are from Peterson's 1950s output: "Tenderly" and "How High the Moon," both featuring bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis. From there the chronologically arranged disc one jumps to 1979 for Django Reinhardt's "Nuages," which teams Peterson with violinist Stephane Grappelli, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Mickey Roker for a journey into gyspy swing.
Pianists are often said to "tickle the ivories." Oscar Peterson, with his light, dancing, often flashy touch on the keyboard, is a master ivory tickler; but he can also show a dark-toned and introspective side, as he does in the opening of his original composition "Nigerian Marketplace" from the album Freedom Song/The Oscar Peterson Big 4 in Japan (Pablo, '82) with guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Martin Drew.
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie sits in on two numbers, the classic "Caravan" and "If I Were a Bell." He and Peterson are an interesting pairing, with trumpet and piano tickling and blowing a competition to see who can play the most notes.
Disc two opens with perfect Oscar Peterson vehicle, the jouncy, upbeat Fats Waller classic "Honeysuckle Rose," with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown, from Live at the Blue Note (Telarc, '90). The rest of the disc features a bunch of jazz luminaries: altoist Benny Carter and flugelhornist Clark Terry on Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone," trumpeter Roy Hargrove and saxophonist Ralph Moore on "Tin Tin Deo," vibraphonist Milt Jackson on "Ja-Da," and a Michel Legrand string arrangement on the closer, "Morning in Newfoundland."
Perfect Peterson is a great introduction to a great pianist, with album/CD identifications listed for each tune, for those who want to explore the recordings which grab them.
CD1: Tenderly; How High the Moon; Nuages; Blues Etude; Caravan; I'm Getting Sentimental Over You;
Summertime; If I Were a Bell; (Back Home Again In) Indiana; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); Nigerian
Marketplace; On the Trail. CD2: Honeysuckle Rose; Kelly's Blues; Wheatland; In a Mellow tone; Tin Tin Deo;
Nighttime; Reunion Blues; Satin Doll; Ja-Da; Morning in Newfoundland.
Oscar Peterson, Benny Green, Count Basie: piano; Herb Ellis, Lorne Lafsky, Ulf Wakenius, Joe Pass: guitar; Ray
Brown, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, John Heard, David Young: bass; Bobby Durham, Lewis Nash, Martin
Drew, Karriem Riggins, Mickey Roker, Louis Bellson: drums; Benny Carter: alto sax; Clark Terry: flugelhorn; Roy
Hargrove, Dizzy Gillespie: trumpet; Ralph Moore, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: tenor sax; Milt Jackson: vibes; Michel
Legrand: strings; Stephane Grappelli: violin.
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