Mack Avenue Music Group celebrates the genius of Oscar Peterson with a previously unreleased live album.
The Oscar Peterson Trio – On A Clear Day/Live In Zurich, 1971 – Mack Avenue Music Group MAC 1199 LP (2022) stereo double vinyl (includes digital download), 62:34 ****1/2:
(Oscar Peterson – piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson – double bass; Louis Hayes – drums)
By 1971, pianist Oscar Peterson had been recording for twenty years. A disciple of Art Tatum and other influential players, his ability to transform pop standards into bona fide jazz pieces was extraordinary. He is credited on 200 albums, often recording multiple albums in a single year. Mack Avenue Music Group has released a live performance from 1971 that had been gathering dust on a shelf. The Oscar Peterson Trio – On A Clear day/Live In Zurich features the venerable Canadian pianist on tour with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson and drummer Louis Hayes. Available on CD and here on black vinyl, the trio offers an enthusiastic audience eight covers. Their instrumental gravitas matches the intensity of the audience. Side A kicks off with “The Lamp Is Low” showcasing a furious drum intro by Hayes who is then joined by Pederson, setting up Peterson’s entrance. OP percolates with bluesy intonation and ferocity. Clearly, this trio is already fired up. Peterson’s relentless tempo is compelling. The Rodgers/Hammerstein II classic from South Pacific (“Younger Than Springtime”) eschews the ballad structure in favor of a medium-swing celebration with syncopation and straight ahead dynamics. Peterson glides across the keys, dropping in subtle references to other melodies. He utilizes forceful crescendos and soulful articulation, always maintaining the frenetic energy. Pederson gets a chance to solo. The title track is also transformed to a livelier rhythm as Peterson opens with jaunty chords and is framed by a “walking” bass line. Oscar’s phrasing is very soulful and sustains the passion of a live performance. He trades with the double bassist as Hayes keeps perfect time. While the core melody remains intact, Peterson’s embellishment is an artistic re-invention.
In a change of pace, Peterson displays a tender side on the “Young And Foolish/A Time For Love” medley. The first song is performed solo on piano with emotional depth and moody articulation. The trio quietly joins (on the second part of the medley) with drum brush and a sinewy bass line. Peterson distills the melodic essence with complex jazzy flourishes. Establishing a finger-snapping groove, “Soft Winds” exudes a gospel depth of feeling. Peterson’s runs are punctuated with graceful execution. The rhythm section wraps itself around the pianist with precision and style. “Mack The Knife” is simply brilliant. In an expanded introduction, Peterson shifts from ruminative to jaunty hooks in seamless fashion. At approximately the 4:00 mark, he explodes with scintillating energy as the basic melody is introduced. As Pederson and Hayes join the boisterous proceeding, the jam is nothing short of incendiary. With some waltz-time finesse, “Where Do We Go From Here?”, maintains the percolating notation and the pianist interacts with the trio effectively. Again, the musicians are fully committed to the “live” feeling of this performance. The finale “On The Trail” swings with ebullience and vamps galore. Peterson’s exchanges with his double bassist are inspiring. At 4;29, there is a sudden and explosive tempo uptick. This is one extraordinary hour of jazz!
Kudos to Mack Avenue Music Group for unearthing this inspired live set from Oscar Peterson. He was still a masterful technician and jazz icon. The sound mix is balanced the gatefold packaging (especially the cover graphic) is top-notch. The 2-LP vinyl comes with a digital download.
The Oscar Peterson Trio – On A Clear Day/Live In Zurich, 1971
Side A: The Lamp Is Low; Younger Than Springtime
Side B: On A Clear Day; Young And Foolish/A Time For Love
Side C: Soft Winds; Mack The Knife
Side D: Where Do We Go From Here?; On The Trail
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