07 June 2007

OP - Master of Swing

Oscar Peterson is the reason I came to love jazz. As young person with young ears, I was stunned by his amazing speed and technique. Over the years, I've also come to see him probably one of the finest accompanists to ever pull up a piano bench, always managing to make the soloist and the entire ensemble shine.

There's some of both of those traits in this low-down, lava-hot performance of Sweet Georgia Brown from somewhere in the 1970s (I'm guessing). He's there with the flash, but he backs off while managing to compliment and prod bassists Niels Pedersen and Ray Brown during their solos. Of course, it's OP's show and at one point Brown and Pedersen just stand back and shake their heads.

There's a "Master of Swing" tribute to Oscar Peterson tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall. A sampling of the names on the bill: Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Mulgrew Miller, Russell Malone, Renee Rosnes and even KC's own Eldar.

Peterson suffered a stroke in the early 90s but managed to make a virtually full recovery and return to touring within a few years. Now 82, his performance dates have dwindled, and, sadly, word came earlier this week that Peterson himself was too weak to travel to the show. His wife and daughter will attend in his place.

If you're looking for an introduction to the Oscar Peterson phenomenon, you couldn't do better than this collection from Verve:

The Essential Oscar Peterson: The Swinger

Bless you, Mr. Peterson, and thanks for starting my trip off right.

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