Friday, October 14, 2011

Oscar Peterson - On the Town

This reissue of Oscar Peterson's live Toronto recording in the Desert Island Discs series at Verve brings to light the question that jazz audiences were debating at the time. With Peterson's legerdemain rhythmic possibilities, his knotting, shimmering waves of notes, his insanely huge harmonic structures, and his dense clusters played in every solo, half the jazz populace wondered if all the swinging noodling might be a skillful medicine show while the other half considered it genius. No matter. One thing that everyone agreed on: No matter how busy his busy got — and this album illustrates the rule since it's in a live setting — Peterson always, always swung, particularly with Herb Ellis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass. The set opens with "Sweet Georgia Brown" and it's all bets off as to what Peterson will do next. He skitters from one melodic possibility to the next while Ellis creates a dynamic flow of fresh ideas to keep the music full and bright. There are blues here, and they are gutbucket blues. They come from Ellis' guitar during this late '50s period more than at any other time in his life. But they come from Brown and Peterson too, and that's where the argument loses the wind in its sails: Everything this trio played was rooted in a blues so pervasive, so swinging, so hot, it could not be anything but truly fine jazz. Peterson's musical appetite matched his physical stature, and it is reflected in the selections here, which all seem to segue into one another: "Should I," "When the Lights Are Low," "Pennies From Heaven," "Moonlight in Vermont," and others through to "Love Is Here to Stay." All are reinvented and reinterpreted through the science of harmonic invention and rhythmic interval unique to this Oscar Peterson Trio. And while the plates and glasses rattle and tinkle, the jazz continues to burn, full of joy and light and just a hint of smoke. In 1958 this was a night to remember; in the 21st Century it's a disc to memorize in the depths of the heart. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

Artist: Oscar Peterson Trio
Album: On the Town with the Oscar Peterson Trio
Year: 1958 (Recorded live at the Town Tavern, Toronto)
Label: Verve (96 kHz, 14-bit digital transfer)
Total time: 77:39

1.  Sweet Georgia Brown (Ben Bernie/Kenneth Casey/Maceo Pinkard) 7:47
2.  Should I? (Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown) 5:04
3.  When Lights Are Low (Benny Carter/Spencer Williams) 5:57
4.  Easy Listenin' Blues (Nadine Robinson) 6:48
5.  Pennies From Heaven (Arthur Johnston/Johnny Burke) 7:22
6.  The Champ (Dizzy Gillespie) 5:25
7.  Moonlight in Vermont (Karl Suessdorf/John Blackburn) 6:05
8.  Baby, Baby All the Time (Bobby Troup) 6:49
9.  I Like to Recognize the Tune (Richard Rodgers/Lorentz Hart) 4:17
10.  Joy Spring (Clifford Brown) 9:01
11.  Gal in Calico (Arthur Schwartz/Leo Robin) 5:16
12.  Love is Here to Stay (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 7:41

Oscar Peterson (Piano)
Herb Ellis (Guitar)
Ray Brown (Double Bass)

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