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Perfect Peterson: The Best of the Pablo and Telarc Recordings

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Album Review

While it's true that Oscar Peterson compilations appeared with regularity form the early '60s on, only a few of them — as with most recording artists — have any real merit. This two-disc collection from the Concord Music Group's Telarc label, is one of them. Appearing less than a year before his death, this compilation concentrates on recordings issued from the '50s through the middle of the '80s on Dizzy Gillespie's Pablo label, and those made for Telarc between 1990 and 2000. Many live dates are included here from both labels, including "Tenderly" with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown at the J.A.T.P. concerts in Japan; the trio dates at Zardi's in 1955 ("How High the Moon"), in Copenhagen with Joe Pass, Stéphane Grappelli, and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen in 1979, and Mickey Roker in 1979 ("Nuages"). There's the beautiful duet reading of Juan Tizol's "Caravan" with Gillespie in the studio in 1974, as well as the title track form the Nigerian Marketplace album but recorded live in Japan in 1982. The biggest complaint is that there isn't anything here actually from that classic album on this set. Disc two begins with the great reunion of the trio at the Blue Note in 1990, from which the historic set was taken with Bobby Durham on drums: "Honeysuckle Rose," "Kelly's Blues," and "Wheatland" all come from those sets. Other live cuts include "Reunion Blues," with Benny Green, Ellis, Brown, and drummer Lewis Nash from the Tribute to Oscar Peterson concert in New York, and "Night Time" from Oscar in Paris. There are a few studio numbers here as well including "In a Mellow Tone," with Brown, Nash, Benny Carter, Clark Terry, and Lorne Lofsky, and the stellar version of "Tin Tin Deo," with Roy Hargrove, Ørsted-Pedersen, and Ralph Moore was recorded in Canada for release on mid-'90s albums like The More I See You and Trail of Dreams: A Canadian Suite. With the exception of the aforementioned minor complaint, this is a fine overview of some of Peterson's most productive years. Included is an excellent liner essay by writer James Isaacs.


Born: 15 August 1925 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Oscar Peterson was one of the greatest piano players of all time. A pianist with phenomenal technique on the level of his idol, Art Tatum, Peterson's speed, dexterity, and ability to swing at any tempo were amazing. Very effective in small groups, jam sessions, and in accompanying singers, O.P. was at his absolute best when performing unaccompanied solos. His original style did not fall into any specific idiom. Like Erroll Garner and George Shearing, Peterson's distinctive playing formed during the...
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