The Michael Blum Quartet – Chasin’ Oscar – A Tribute To Oscar Peterson – Michael Blum Music, 46:32 ***:
A well-meaning divertimento.
(Michael Blum – guitar and vocals; Jim Stinnett – bass; Brad Smith – piano; Dom Moio – drums)
There is an old proverb which states: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery“. That being said, it would be impossible to exaggerate Michael Blum’s dedication to these words, as he has taken a number of Oscar’s pieces, and learned his piano solos note for note by ear, to be played on the guitar. Anyone who has listened to Oscar understands what a daunting challenge that would be, as there was not a note that Oscar did not like. The result is the album Chasin’ Oscar A Tribute To Oscar Peterson which is a diverting exposition and musical exploration.
While this is a clever musical feat, the question should be asked to what end? And if a listener wanted to hear such playing, why not go to the original Oscar Peterson material and listen to the master himself? However the more reasonable explanation is that Blum loved the music and was fascinated by the unbridled technique of the originator. Beginning with a Peterson original “Nightingale” Blum finds the musical narrative that offers a nimble pace and a pleasant line that works well. “I Loves You, Porgy” captures the essence of the composition in a bluesy fashion as Blum and bassist Stinnett work up a captivating interplay.
During his career, Oscar Peterson recorded two vocal albums, the first in 1956 entitled Romance: The Vocal Styling of Oscar Peterson and the second in 1965 called With Respect To Nat which was Peterson’s tribute to Nat Cole shortly after his death. In neither case did Peterson offer vocal performances of “East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon)” and “Tenderly”. So why Blum felt the need to do vocal renditions of these numbers is not clear. While he has a pleasant enough voice, his guitar playing is much better and perhaps he should have stayed with what he does best. It also might have been useful to do a more thorough edit of the liner notes by Donald Elfman. He incorrectly attributes “Tenderly” to Jerome Kern when in fact, Walter Gross and Jack Lawrence wrote the words and music.
So while this offering is a well-meaning divertimento, it is difficult to imagine what Oscar would have thought of this project. As for the listener, stick with the original Peterson performances.
TrackList: Nightingale; I Loves You, Porgy; You Look Good To Me; The Girl from Ipanema ; East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon); Tristeza; Pine; Tenderly; Whisper