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Unmistakable (Zenph Re-performance)

Oscar Peterson

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Album Review

The Zenph Re-Performance series has been dedicated to transferring analog recordings of less than optimal audio quality to digital, designed to capture the essence of of every chord, volume, and pedal action. For their earlier reworking of Art Tatum's album Piano Starts Here, pitch correction and the insertion of material edited out from a medley were involved, while the reproduction was also placed on the stage of the same theater where the live songs were originally recorded. There are also some 1933 studio recordings. In the case of this Oscar Peterson CD, privately recorded DVDs of the pianist's various unissued performances, from his personal collection and ranging from the mid-'70s to the late '80s from concerts and television appearances, provided the source audio for the re-performances, duplicated using software-based technology then recorded for playback on a Bösendorfer grand piano in the studio.

Since listeners are unlikely to have heard the original performances, so a before-and-after comparison isn't possible as with the Art Tatum release, though anyone well versed in Peterson's commercially released albums and CDs will recognize his distinctive touch at the piano. While a few critics will inevitably complain that these performances aren't the same thing as Peterson himself playing, and about not being able to hear the reaction of his audience, the pianist himself approved of Zenph's work, applauding the sampling of their Art Tatum project and early re-performances of his recordings.

Peterson was often criticized for putting his matchless technique on display, particularly his high-speed runs that rivaled those of Tatum, yet he was an artist who never lost sight of the melody in his brilliant improvisations while playing in a swinging manner. Tatum's influence can be heard in Peterson's treatment of the standard "Body and Soul" as he incorporates many dazzling runs to bridge its lyrical segments. His brief excursion into "(Back Home Again In) Indiana" was a concert favorite and a blazing crowd-pleaser, all that's missing is the thunderous applause that would have followed it. Listen to the sudden twists and turns in his interpretation of "Goodbye," which is anything but maudlin, with Peterson's lightening runs in the upper half of the keyboard and occasional flashes of humor, though his brief strumming of the piano strings had to be done manually in the studio.

After the initial performances, they can be heard a second time in a binaural stereo version, giving the headphone-wearing listener the feeling of sitting on the piano bench with the sound coming from the performer's perspective. This is especially rewarding in the wide-ranging Duke Ellington medley (which includes "All of the Sudden My Heart Sings," a piece not by the maestro but briefly part of his repertoire in 1945 as a showcase for vocalist Joya Sherrill), particularly in the rarely performed but lovely "Lady of the Lavender Mist" and the turbocharged romp through "Caravan." While Unmistakable can't possibly eclipse Oscar Peterson's huge recorded legacy, it adds a brilliant, posthumous chapter by presenting re-performances of his work that would likely never have seen the light of day in their original form.

Customer Reviews

He Lives!

The next best thing to a new Oscar Peterson recording -- a re-performance of some of his best performances. Anyone who love jazz piano should check out this album.


Born: August 15, 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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