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Resonance Big Band: Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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Resonance Big Band: Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson Resonance Big Band's Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson is a true tribute. Here is an artistic offering made in reverential regard to the great pianist, Oscar Peterson. It is something fresh and inviting and eminently deserving of high praise—for George Klabin, who conceived of it, and a magnificent big band that brings the spirit of Peterson to life. Much of this has to do with the wonderful ideas of its arrangers—Dangaa Kuno Schmid and Claus Ogerman. There is also the significant matter of this big band's feature—pianist Marian Petrescu, the Romanian-born marvel who has so far been causing a quiet revolution in a trio that lurks somewhere in his adopted home, Finland, until Klabin "discovered" him.

It is remarkable that a big band can come together to take up what must surely have been a challenge, even for seasoned musicians. To render such melodic wonders as these songs from Peterson's vast songbook—even some of the lesser ones played here—must have asked a lot of musicians, even the experienced ones who make up the big band. Peterson was one of the most devastatingly brilliant pianists ever to grace this world; truly a stellar being. He was a close match, in technique and sheer melodic invention, to Art Tatum; anything Peterson played was endowed with unmatched and unforgettable beauty. To envision this beauty in a large ensemble format is a remarkable achievement for Klabin, and to transpose it to this large musical canvas, using very individual tonal palettes, is simply amazing.

Ogerman, whose approach is soft, lush and sparkles like tinseled dusk, offers "Sally's Tomato." Schmid, who can dazzle like a flibbertigibbet with the heart of a muralist, contributes four charts, including Ray Brown's graceful, bell-like "Waltzing is Hip," the delicate ballad, "L'Impossible" and "Little Girl Blue," with just piano and strings making for a moving piece of an almost spiritual air. Bill Cunliffe—who "sees" notes in uniquely sharp and sunbursts, reflecting their nuances in a mirror of tonal color and timbral detail—leaps out with "Down Here on the Ground," an earthy-toned piece that is obliquely shaded by guitarist Andreas Oberg. Cunliffe also breathes sparkle and sonority into "Hymn to Freedom/John Brown's Body," the latter swinging madly, as the band comps expertly behind Öberg's scat 'n solo and the memorable banter between trombone and tubaist Bill Reichenbach.

The album's most enduring feature is Petrescu, who demonstrates flawless technique and a breathtaking sweep of melodic ideas on tracks including "A Little Jazz Exercise." It may even be fitting to compare him to Peterson—a privileged, gilt-edged piano-stool normally accorded only to Peterson's disciple, Oliver Jones

The musicians of this large ensemble, fronted by Petrescu, together with a well-produced making-of DVD, makes Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson one of 2009's most unforgettable big band packages.

Track Listing: Waltzing is Hip; L'Impossible; Little Girl Blue; Down Here on the Ground; Medley: Hymn to Freedom/John Brown's Body; Sally's Tomato; Tricotism; Greensleeves; Bossa Beguine; West Side Story Medley; A Little Jazz Exercise.

Personnel: Marian Petrescu: piano; Andreas Oberg: electric guitar; David Stone: bass; Joe La Barbera: drums; Bob Sheppard: reeds, flutes; Steve Wilkerson: reeds, flutes; Brian Scanlon: reeds, flutes; Keith Fiddmont: reeds, flutes; Tom Peterson: reeds, flutes; Willie Murillo: trumpet, flugelhorn; Larry Lunetta: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Summers: trumpet, flugelhorn; Larry Hall: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Martin: trombone; Bob McChesney: trombone; Wendell Kelly; Bill Reichenbach: trombone, tuba; Pierre Paul: Cabasa; Bill Cunliffe: arranger, conductor; Kuno Schmid: arranger, conductor; Claus Ogerman: arranger, conductor; Peter Kent: strings; Giovanna Clayton: strings; Belinda Broughton: strings; Jessica Van Velzen: strings.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Resonance Records | Style: Modern Jazz

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