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The Very Tall Band: What's Up?

Franz A. Matzner By

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The Very Tall Band: What's Up? Like director's cuts, material scrounged from studio archives isn't always worthy of release. As with scenes that belong on the cutting room floor, some tracks, particularly from live performances, should remain closeted away—or at the very least held for box set bonus tracks targeting the completist.

Hearing the seven tunes presented on What's Up?, however, reminds us that some moments should never have been allowed to slip by in the first place. Presenting previously unreleased material recorded during a three-day live performance at the Blue Note in 1998 by Oscar Peterson (then 73), Ray Brown (72), Milt Jackson (75), and a young Karriem Riggins, What's Up? grants listeners access to three veteran musicians as they stroll their way through a loose, effervescent jam session.

A wonderful companion to the originally released material, these seven tracks provide insight into what happens when three masters take the stage without a script. The music resonates with three lifetimes of experience, and it is clear from first note to last that their individual styles were veritably made for each other. Brown's deep swing propels each track, while Jackson and Peterson glide effortlessly through classic bop pieces like "Salt Peanuts, the blues tunes "Ad Lib Blues and "Limehouse Blues, and mellow ballads like "The More I See You.

Both Jackson and Brown passed away within a handful of years after this three-night gathering, which makes What's Up? an important document of a historical moment near the end of these musicians' extended, influential careers. But producer Elaine Martone has done more than resurrect an evening of music for documentary purposes. This is music of venerable character, to be enjoyed simply for the musical joy it expresses.


Track Listing: 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: drums; Milt Jackson: vibes; Karriem Riggins: drums.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Telarc Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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