Oscar Peterson / Herb Ellis / Ray Brown / Bobby Durham: The Legendary Oscar Peterson Trio: Live at

Robert R. Calder

Oscar Peterson / Herb Ellis / Ray Brown / Bobby Durham

The Legendary Oscar Peterson Trio: Live at the Blue Note

Label: Telarc
US Release Date: 2004-09-28
UK Release Date: Available as import

The last time I reviewed this trio there were only three of them; one of them was about to depart the ensemble and the third would stay for something like ten years longer and witness the arrival of a drummer. Alyn Shipton tells all in a good note to this set, though he gets a literary knuckle-rap for saying that Bobby Durham was an "antidote" to Sam Jones in the 1967-70 Peterson trio. Antidotes counteract poisons, and Jones was a great bassist, as the late Nat Adderley remembered at length on some gigs. His story reflected on Jones's other talents. Since I can't at the moment think of the word Professor Shipton ought to have used, the knuckle-rap should be gentle and barely perceptible by him.

Telarc had a classical catalogue and crept into jazz by way of two CDs by a sometime film-composer and jazzman once married to Dory Previn and now, I believe, to Anne-Sophie von Mutter -- after relationships (purely musical!) involving the London Symphony orchestra, and I think also (certainly musically) the lately departed sometime Petersonite Barney Kessel. Maybe he does believe Frau von Mutter the most wonderful violinist, Beethoven player, and general all round beautiful woman and wife. Certainly, he claims Peterson as the greatest of all jazz pianists. On the lady I will not presume to speak, while I suppose Peterson does at times challenge for the title Previn claims for him. At other times, well, he has had various recurring faults, mention of whose existence should at least grant me temporary credentials as definitely not one of these people who praise Peterson regardless. I suppose a couple of times in the four and a half hours of this music Peterson does produce some of his stock phrases, which aren't entirely excused by being unplayable by anybody else. That's well below average for any jazz pianist, since almost any ten fingers will let old friends hang around now and then. After experiencing the 1950s Canadian live concert by Peterson/Ellis/Brown, I have come to suppose that some of the fingers' overindulgence or glutting in sheer numbers of notes was maybe their form of pining for the miraculous Ellis, who here with brown is a proper antidote to excess. This is live Peterson in every sense.

After Previn, Telarc jazz took on Peterson, producing four CDs drawn from three evenings at New York's Blue Note venue in 1990. Here all four are in a handsome folder and box for the price of two, and with Alyn Shipton on topics of trio playing which were raised for me by the joy of reviewing (with some melancholy) both a Ray Brown tribute set (his last date, and more from archives) and productions from members of his academy. Do read the notes if you didn't buy the CDs separately. Peterson has always liked challenges, being given them and causing them. He is thriving here, which lets me call this recommendable Peterson. He's produced too many recordings for a comparison. The reviewer who tries just sets the bar high, and here the huge pianist leaps it no bother. Brown, Ellis, and Durham are flying, too. The original trio were not young men even in 1990, but even then they didn't need support from the drummer Shipton reports Peterson as saying was the most aggressive his trio ever had. They just wanted more sparks.

Of 36 or so tunes, 15 are by Peterson, including the closing 10-and-a-half minute "Cool Walk", which sounds almost just its mother (she was an old standard called "Ja-Da"). Several tracks reach or go beyond the ten-minute mark, some being referred to as medleys while far more like suites proper. Nothing gets mixed and there's none of the cocktail tinkler's getting another tune up because he could think of nothing to do with the one he'd just been trying to play. Contrast is everything; sometimes it happens within a performance of the one tune, at other times it doesn't happen and the continuity is almost surprising. These guys know that music can go deep only when the listener has expectations. To go on playing the same tune does, however, require imagination and inspiration.

One of the high-points comes when Peterson seems almost to be -- hold your breath -- having fingering problems. The articulation isn't clean because (a) to Hell with routine, (b) he's trying to play faster than he's practiced for! At age 65! Four hours 37 minutes and 34 seconds, the note on the box says. You can tell the fourth CD was a genuine afterthought from the mildly intrusive microphone noise on the first track, which is "Falling in Love with Love". This is Peterson music at the same best as without young Durham in the 1950s; it's all here bar the more outrageous jokes of the time (the band told different ones by 1990). "Old Folks" and "Reunion Blues" are on the programme just because they're such splendid vehicles. And these men go!

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.