Oscar Peterson: Con Alma, Live In Lugano, 1964

Peterson's widow Kelly presents another previously unissued live set, this one featuring Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen


Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s widow, continues to unearth and release his previously unknown “live” trio and quartet performances. They have been uniformly excellent. Con Alma (with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen) was recorded in Lugano, Switzerland in 1964, on the final night of their European tour before leaving for Japan.

Earlier releases have been On A Clear Day (with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Louis Hayes) taken from a Zurich concert in 1971, and a double album, A Time For Love (with Joe Pass, Dave Young and Martin Drew) staged in Helsinki, Finland in 1987.

The Lugano set, despite its comparative brevity, has titles not usually performed by the trio in concert and easily passes muster. It opens with a delicately lilting version of Bill Evans’ Waltz For Debby, initially a duet for piano and bass, but moving into three-four time with Thigpen’s authoritative entry.

On the five remaining performances, Oscar was in superlative form, effortlessly passing from an almost soporific My One And Only Love, through a delicate rendition of Con Alma and a mesmerising boogie-driven Blues For My Landlady, named for his friend, the Chicago pianist and vocalist Audrey Morris. Rodgers and Hart’s I Could Write A Book swings from beginning to end, while a storming It Ain’t Necessarily So (from Porgy And Bess) deservedly received a rapturous (if not a standing) ovation.

The disc is well-packaged and in surprisingly clear sound; the accompanying booklet has affectionate essays by Kelly Peterson who comments that it was “a privilege to be able to bring this previously unheard, unreleased concert into the light”. Her daughter Celine pays tribute to “Uncle Ray” – who left everything he had up on the bandstand every single night”, and there are appreciations by Jeff Hamilton and Christian McBride.

An excerpt from Oscar’s autobiography A Jazz Odyssey (2002) – edited by Richard Palmer – includes his reflection that “Other musicians used to marvel at the fact that we go out on a festival and almost immediately attain a solid groove throughout the whole performance.” They certainly did this on the night of 26 May 1964.

Waltz For Debby; My One And Only Love; Blues For My Landlady; Con Alma; I Could Write a Book; In Ain’t Necessarily So (43.55)
Oscar Peterson (p); Ray Brown (b); Ed Thigpen (d). Teatro Apollo, Lugano, Switzerland. 26 May 1964.
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