Rightfully so, more tributes to Oscar Peterson continue to appear. On its debut CD, the Jazz Arts Trio combines six tunes by this late piano legend with one song each from kings of the keyboard Erroll Garner, Bill Evans, Vince Guaraldi, Herbie Hancock and Horace Silver.
Tribute, released on JRI Recordings, is an attempt to re-create specific moments in jazz history.
Pianist Frederick Moyer, bassist Peter Tillotson and drummer Peter Fraenkel are three high school friends reuniting after 30 years. They got back together in 2007 when Moyer was thinking about transcribing and learning the music of his favorite recordings.
After purchasing the Amazing Slow Downer software (slows down music without changing the pitch), Moyer began to capture moments of improvised jazz expression. Now, with Tribute, he is demonstrating the art to a classical music crowd.
Much like the way classical musicians interpret Beethoven or Bach, this truly special project takes the music of jazz legends and explains it to these incredibly capable performers, mainly schooled in the classical realm.
In liner notes by Scott Yanow, Fraenkel describes his chore of transcribing brush strokes, cymbal splashes and drum rolls. "Figuring out what those guys actually played and then performing it is sort of like breaking the genetic code," says the drummer who spent hours in preparation listening to the likes of Louis Hayes, Bobby Durham and Grady Tate.
Vince Guaraldi's tune "Freeway" throws a curve into the mellow, middle part of Tribute. With Peterson's material taking up the first four and final two tracks of the CD, the Guaraldi song is a fun, almost Monk-like, surprise stuck in the center. Unmistakably eye-opening on a record full of striking piano, it is shocking that his work is not more well-known. Before writing the music behind the Peanuts cartoon series, he spent time as an apprentice with Cal Tjader and Woody Herman. His first album, Modern Music from San Francisco (Original Jazz Classics), was recorded in 1955.
"Lonely Woman," a Silver original, is a chance to relax and appreciate a remarkably basic selection. It serves as an impeccable intermission and a gentle jaunt before the tribute to Oscar carries on.
"Blues Etude" completes the project with the Jazz Arts Trio going for and executing a hard-bop vibe in a big way. It punctuates Peterson's appeal and underscores a slick set.
Moyer plays with classical orchestras all over the world and he deserves credit for assembling this project with his extremely talented mates in order to preserve pieces of a jazz legacy. Moyer's skill and forward thinking, along with his stunning band, makes Tribute a relevant salute to Peterson and other jazz piano greats.