Friday Evening Jazz: Oscar Peterson

Exclusively_for_my_friends_box_setTonite’s guest host for FNJ is a music insider. Although he is known better for many of the newer acts he represents, he is, surprisngly enough, a closet jazz aficionado, and therefore must remain anonymous.

Here’s his take on the O-man:

Oscar Peterson has been recording and performing for over half a century. He may also be the most recorded of all piano players. (And he’s from Canada).

Oscar bridged the swing and bop eras, rooting himself in a style that was at the same time stunningly complex yet elegant and soulful.  Nobody used more notes to swing! Oscar is sometimes dismissed because he wasn’t groundbreaking in the way that many of his contemporaries were. But the range of expression he achieved on the piano, and his technical prowess, is hardly rivaled in mainstream jazz.

Trio_2 Many consider his solo recordings of the late 60s and early 70s to be his most outstanding work, but I was always partial to his trio recordings both with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen and later with Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson. The live album "The Trio" from 1973 (not to be confused with a Verve release of the same title) is a great recording of Oscar with Pass and Pederson and shows Oscar at his most virtuosic. Check out the Brown Thigpen work live here.

Satch_and_joshFor a
compendium of his 60s work in both trio and solo settings, the
excellent box set "Exclusively for My Friends" will keep you
entertained for years. Of course, there are the standard "songbook"
albums (George Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc.) and the duets with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Clark Terry and
Dizzy Gillespie.

Night_trainBut if I had to pick one place to start, and on a
Friday night with your favorite Bordeaux, it would be the 1962 album "Night Train" with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen

It showcases Oscar at his best on both ballads and uptempo numbers and he really shows his blues chops. In particular, note the title track, Bags’ Groove (one the great jazz classics), Moten Swing and Elllington’s great C-Jam Blues. The bonus tracks added to the reissue aren’t particularly special, but don’t diminish Peterson’s brilliance on this record.

Cole_porter
Enjoy!

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