JJ 12/79: Oscar Peterson – The Paris Concert

First published in Jazz Journal December 1979


Space precludes the kind of detailed run-down both these albums deserve, so I’ll have to limit myself to the statement that both, in their different ways and styles, demonstrate why Oscar is beyond any serious question the greatest and most complete pianist in jazz. On the Paris date, for example, hear what he does with Who Can I Turn To – transforming a maudlin ballad into the kind of medium-tempo shouting performance that threatens to melt the paint off the walls. Listen to the tender beauty of Carnival/If slowly easing into that loping, sexy power that this trio have made their unique trademark. Marvel at the blistering introductory exchanges on Bugle before the theme assaults ears with the force of a hurricane. Laugh with joy at the almost ridiculous swing these guys generate on Soft Winds – without a drummer, be it noted – and ask yourself throughout if you’ve ever heard such infallible three-way telepathy as they switch tempo, keys, moods and melodic exploration.

The London date is no less awe-inspiring, although I personally find Bellson’s two long solos (Georgia and Cute) less than riveting. The Ellington medley encompasses a full musical spectrum, from the sonorous lyricism of Lush Life to the ferocious power of Caravan. Satin Doll features some new, “brightened” harmonies which will exhilarate even the most blasé Ellington/Peterson aficionado.

A wholly uncritical review, I admit, but, to borrow Punch’s famous tribute to P. G. Wodehouse, I think that to criticise Peterson in this kind of form, is like “taking a spade to a souffle”.
Richard Palmer

[The Paris Concert] Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone; Who Can I Turn To; Benny’s Bugle (21.55) – Soft Winds; Goodbye; Place St. Henri (21.40) – Manha De Carnival/If; Ornithology; Blue Lou; How Long Has This Been Going On (23.50) — Gentle Tears; Lover Man; Samba De Orfeu; Donna Lee; Sweet Georgia Brown (22.40)
Oscar Peterson (p); Niels Pedersen (b); Joe Pass (g). Paris 5/10/78.
Pablo Live (Double) 2620112
[The London Concert] It’s A Wonderful World; People; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Jitterbug Waltz (23.05) – Pennies From Heaven; I Get Along Without You Very Well-Sweet Georgia Brown (23.55) — Falling In Love With Love; Hogtown Blues; Emily (21.40) – Satin Doll; Ellington Medley; I Got It Bad/Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me/C-Jam Blues/Lush Life/Take The A Train/Caravan; Cute (23.50)
Oscar Peterson (p); John Heard (b); Louis Bellson (d). RFH, 21/10/78.
Pablo Live (Double) 2620111