On Gillespie's second recording for Norman Granz's Pablo label, he joins Oscar Peterson for a set of miraculous duets. Benny Green, who wrote the liner notes for this album, compared this performance of Ellington's classic composition to the Armstrong and Hines rendition of "Weather Bird." Peterson melds a keen sense for complementary accompaniment with dexterous, interweaving polyphonic lines.
Oscar Peterson has stated that he feels his MPS recordings are his finest. That is quite a statement considering the huge amount of records that the pianist has produced through the past 50 years. This set reissues the music from six of his MPS LPs: Action, Girl Talk, The Way I Really Play, My Favorite Instrument, Mellow Mood, and Travelin' On. While some of the performances feature the 1963 trio he had with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen, most of the music dates from 1967-1968 and matches Peterson with bassist Sam Jones and either Louis Hayes or Bobby Durham on drums. A special treat is Peterson's first unaccompanied solo album, which fills up the final LP. Peterson's many fans know what to expect in this set, while other listeners need to discover him to realize what all of the fuss was about. Quite simply, Oscar Peterson has long been one of the greatest pianists the world has ever known; this reissue offers plenty of proof.
Classical violinist Itzhak Perlman is not a jazz improviser, so this meeting with the Oscar Peterson Quartet is more a loving tribute to the melodies (ten veteran standards plus two Peterson originals) than a strong jazz date. While Perlman sticks closely to the themes, one's attention focuses much more on Peterson, who had suffered a serious stroke a few years earlier and had been inactive ever since. Peterson sounds healthy in his supportive role, and although it is doubtful if he sweat much during this relaxed music, his apparent comeback is great news. Guitarist Herb Ellis has the most rewarding solos, although his spots are short.
Duke Ellington's music has long excited Oscar Peterson. So when Pablo, in 1999, decided to assemble a collection of Peterson's interpretations of Ellington favorites, the label had a lot to choose from. Spanning 1967-1986, this collection of Norman Granz-produced Pablo sides reminds us how rewarding a combination Peterson's pianism and the Duke's compositions can be. The most obscure piece on the CD is "Lady of the Lavender Mist," which Ellington recorded in 1947 and quit playing altogether in 1952…
Although the music of this two-LP set was recording at a concert in the Soviet Union, it is a fairly typical recital by pianist Oscar Peterson with no obvious reference to the exotic location. Peterson takes five selections unaccompanied, performs four others as duets with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and adds drummer Jake Hanna to the nine remaining numbers. Other than three originals, all of the music is comprised of veteran standards and, although no real surprises occur, the results are what one would expect from the great Oscar Peterson, who alternates hard swingers with sensitive ballad renditions.
Oscar Peterson was recorded by Verve more often than any other artist. In those years, his groups had the ability to not just keep up with him but become equal partners in creating music that would soar the heights while never forgetting to flat-out swing. Hear him in classic duo, trio, and big-band settings with such stalwarts as Cannonball Adderley, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Sam Jones, Clark Terry, and Ed Thigpen.