Oscar Peterson: On A Clear Day

The efforts of the pianist's widow and Mack Avenue have produced another set of previously unreleased OP, this time from Zurich in 1971

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Since Peterson’s death, his wife Kelly Peterson has done much to burnish and preserve his legacy by producing three tributes to his life and work. The first, the lavishly presented three-disc set Oscar, With Love, featured 38 performances by 17 pianists of compositions created by or associated with the grand master. All were played on the cherished Bosendorfer grand piano in his home in Ontario in 2015.

The second, a previously unreleased concert in Helsinki in 1987 – A Time For Love – featured a quartet: Oscar, Joe Pass (g), Dave Young (b) and Martin Drew (d). It ranks among his finest latter-day performances. Now it is joined by On A Clear Day, recorded in Zurich in 1971 before a wildly enthusiastic audience.

Oscar and his trio – Niels-Henning Ǿrsted Pedersen (b) and Louis Hayes (d) – came together for the second time after their excellent studio MPS album Great Connection, recorded in the Black Forest a month earlier. Four of the titles from the Zurich concert – Younger Than Springtime, Soft Winds, Where Do I Go From Here? and On The Trail – are also on Great Connection. Compare and contrast.

Hayes opens the proceedings with a short but explosive drum solo followed by NHØP introducing his employer who immediately launches into a staggering and bravura rendition of The Lamp Is Low.

On the succeeding seven tracks, Oscar and NHØP display their telepathic musical empathy and virtuosity. In his autobiography, A Jazz Odyssey (2002), Oscar writes of the Great Dane “His melodic sense is impeccable, his choice of harmonic sequences is a pure delight to play with, and his time is flawless.” He also expressed affection and admiration for Hayes: “It broke my heart when [he] and I had to part company.”

A sensitive duet between Oscar & NHØP on the ballad Young And Foolish calms the atmosphere down but a strutting Younger Than Springtime restores the groove, much to the audience’s approval. Mack The Knife is initially unrecognisable, but OP soon reconstructs the familiar melody. Starting off at ballad tempo it eventually adopts a compelling stride colouration. Where Do We Go From Here is a gentle swinger while the concluding On The Trail has the pianist and bassist displaying their awesome skills which threaten to run out of control before Hayes brings order out of approaching chaos with authoritative cymbal thrashings.

It may not be quite as beguiling or varied as the Time For Love album, but attention should be paid to On A Clear Day. Kelly Peterson’s continuing labours of love should ensure that it is.

Discography
The Lamp Is Low; Younger Than Springtime; On A Clear Day; Young And Foolish / A Time For Love; Soft Winds; Mack The Knife; Where Do We Go From Here?; On The Trail (62.48)
Peterson (p); Niels-Henning Ǿrsted Pedersen (b); Louis Hayes (d). Zurich Kongresshaus, Switzerland, 24 November 1971.
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