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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


A Jazz Odyssey
VERVE 589 780-2


  1. Get Happy
  2. Just A Sittiní and A Rockiní
  3. How About You?
  4. When Lights are Low
  5. The Honey Dripper
  6. This Nearly was Mine
  7. LíImpossible
  8. My Romance
  9. Dancing On the Ceiling
  10. I Only Have Eyes for You
  11. Exactly Like You
  12. Blue Moon
  13. Pennies from Heaven
  14. Iíll Never be the Same
  15. Goody Goody
  16. Micís Jump
  17. I Canít Give you Anything but Love
  18. Mumbles

This record has been released simultaneously with Oscar Petersonís Autobiography that has the same title. I have not managed to get a copy yet, but it is a book I have to read. Andre Previn, who can play a bit himself, said of Oscar " Heís the best" and I agree with him. Others may have produced the odd brilliant records or had one or two exceptional groups, but Oscar has been on top form for 50 years or more, few can compete with that. The other thing that is remarkable, is that many brilliant soloists do not perform well in an accompanying role, Art Tatum would be a classic example of this, a brilliant pianist, but his backing of other artists left much to be desired, perhaps only Ben Webster could cope with it. If you listen to Oscar playing with Stan Getz, Clark Terry and Ella Fitzgerald on this record, you will hear that Oscar changes his accompaniment to something empathetic for each of them.

This CD covers the years 1950 to 1970, just 20 years of the 50 we are talking about and yet within that 20 years we hear how Peterson kept refining and improving his musical presentation. On the first track, Get Happy we here him in duo format with bass player major Holly, that is followed by three tracks with the original trio format with either Barney Kessel or Herb Ellis on guitar and the magnificent Ray Brown on bass. It was when Ellis left, that Oscar decided to bring in Ed Thigpen on drums; this changed the groups format completely. Ray Brown had a much freer role once relieved of the timekeepers duties and he took great advantage of it to develop his own playing to suit the opportunity. Ed Thigpen is a unique drummer; he could create an enormous amount of swing without making a lot of noise, a role Martin Drew fulfils well in the current trio. Dancing on the Ceiling is a dazzling display of the Peterson creativity and improvisation as a solo pianist.

I Only Have Eyes for You goes back to 1952, Billie Holiday is the vocalist, Flip Phillips is on Tenor sounding very much like Lester Young and Charlie Shavers

is on trumpet. Exactly Like You is from the Diz and Getz album of 1953, note the difference in Oscars approach to the accompaniment on the previous track

Roy Eldridge, who also had a book of his life and times written by John Chilton published recently and reviewed on this site, plays trumpet on the next track. It is an unusually restrained, but enjoyable performance from the excitable trumpet ace. The next track is a delightful version of Pennies from Heaven featuring Lester Young and Harry "Sweets" Edison. Buddy Rich; Ray Brown and Herb Ellis complete the rhythm section.

The great Coleman Hawkins is the soloist on the next track from 1957 and again Oscar adapts his backing to suit the great man. Hawkins was the mentor of modern saxophone players, nearly everything that has happened since has come from his departure from the Dixieland format he grew up in. Oscar and Ella is always a big thrill, they created excitement the minute Ella came on stage and this track is no exception, Oscarís playing brings the best out of everybody! Micís Jump is a Dizzy Gillespie composition and it comes from Jazz att the Philharmonic recording from 1958, it is a typical and immediately recognisable Diz performance.

Sonny Stitt was another of those early modern jazz performers who still have an influence on the music today. For all round performance creativity and swing Stitt was hard to beat. There is also an excellent 16 bars from Oscar and another from Ray Brown on this track. The last track is a jazz classic, which most people will have already heard, it is great fun and it has that excellent trumpet and flugel player Clark Terry performing his famous wordless blues!

If the book is as good as this CD and I am sure it will be, then it is something to look forward to. If you buy just one CD this month buy this one, this is timeless jazz from Oscar Peterson and his contemporaries.

Don Mather


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