Mack Avenue Music Group releases a vibrant mid career live album from Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson – A Time For Love – The Oscar Peterson Quartet/Live In Helsinki 1987 Two Lions Records/Mack Avenue Music Group MAC1151LP translucent blue 180-gram stereo triple vinyl, 110:26 *****:
(Oscar Peterson – piano; Joe Pass – guitar; Dave Young – bass; Martin Drew – drums)
Seven-time Grammy award winner Oscar Peterson is considered among the greatest jazz pianists. Over a six decade career that included nearly 200 recordings, Peterson performed thousands of concerts worldwide, and was respected by his colleagues. He was influenced by Teddy Wilson and most notably, Art Tatum. Duke Ellington referred to him as the “Maharaja of the Keyboards”. His mastery of swing, classical and balladry earned the Downbeat award for pianist of the year 13 consecutive occasions. Peterson recorded solo, duo, trio, quartet and played alongside other jazz legends. Several of his live albums are part of jazz lore, including his final release in 2015.
Mack Avenue Music Group has released a translucent blue 180-gram triple vinyl of a notable mid career concert. The Oscar Peterson Quartet/Live In Helsinki 1987 features the iconic jazz master backed up by Joe Pass (guitar), Dave Young (double bass) and Martin Drew (drums). This particular concert was the last stop on a 14 city tour from South America to Europe. To put it mildly, the performance is incendiary and bursting with musical dexterity. Side A consists of two Peterson compositions. “Cool Wall” establishes a tight groove with double bass drum, and guitar joining in as Peterson enters the stage. His deft touch transitions to a jaunty, soul-infused jam. His distinctive style and beautiful phrasing is uncanny. There is palpable chemistry with his band mates, and Pass displays his instrumental gravitas between piano runs. Embracing straight ahead bop, “Sushi” is explosive. Pass’ fiery solo is electrifying as the rhythm section percolates. Peterson maintains the ferocity with dazzling right hand notation. The energy is relentless. In another original (“Love Ballade”), the pianist balances tender classical-infused lyricism with ethereal melancholy.
Side C has one number and it is a remarkable jazz alchemy of J.S. Bach. This “Salute to Bach” distills the essence of Bach into various time signatures. The twenty-minute “suite” kicks off with swaying-trio allegro that transitions to a breathless andante with solos from guitar and double bass. The final part is achingly beautiful, and ends in approachable soul jazz. It epitomizes the flexibility of Peterson and his commitment to musical exploration. Switching gears, the title track is more contemplative and the interchange between Peterson and Pass is supple. The quartet’s take on the Les Paul, Mary Ford 1951 classic, “How High The Moon” is interesting. They intermingle a funky left-handed piano run with a jazzy country twang. Peterson’s solo is erudite with bluesy flourish. Returning to bop, “Soft Winds” is syncopated and bristles with punctuated tempo and freewheeling jazz intonation.
It seems only natural that a jazz icon like Peterson would pay homage to another one. And “Duke Ellington Medley” (Side E) more than meets this expectation. The familiar melodic chord progression of “Take The A Train” fits perfectly with this quartet’s dynamics. The approachable swing of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is translated gracefully with a faithful cover. Peterson intuitive playing is perceptive and virtuosic as he moves through “Come Sunday”, “C-Jam Blues” and especially on “Caravan”. Here, the band is racing at dazzling speed. Undaunted, Peterson offers a tribute to fellow pianist extraordinaire Bill Evans on “Waltz For Debby”. In a solo performance, he captures all of the eloquence of Evans, but injects flashy runs and trademark “O.P.” stylistic articulation. Joe Pass is equally adroit in his solo interpretation of “When You Wish Upon A Star”. He retains the melodic essence, and improvises extensively. The finale (“Blues Etude”) is fitting to a memorable concert. This Peterson composition is high-octane swing with a transcendent frenetic piano solo.
Oscar Peterson – A Time For Love – Live In Helsinki 1987 is a terrific album. The overall sound mix of this vinyl (which comes with a digital download) is crisp with excellent separation. The gatefold packaging is top-notch. It is also available as a 2-CD set.
Side A: Cool Walk; Sushi
Side B; Love Ballade; Cakewalk;
Side C: A Salute To Bach;
Side D: A Time For Love; How High The Moon; Soft Winds
Side E: Duke Ellington Medley
Side F: Waltz For Debby; When You Wish Upon A Star; Blues Etude.
Please see publisher Mack Avenue for more information: