"Of course, the focus is on Peterson's clear and virtuosic playing, his music is lyrical without slipping into sentimentality, his touch sounds so easy that the fun of playing is dripping off."Rootstime, 08-12-2017
10 February 1961: Norman Granz stepped on to the Concertgebouw stage to present one of the finest concerts from the Jazz at the Philharmonic series he organized. He introduced Oscar Peterson, his protégé since 1949. The pianist was always keen to play in this hall, renowned for its extraordinary acoustics, resonating with the performances of the classic musicians he so loved. Aged 35, at the pinnacle of his extraordinary technical skills and at the peak of his fame, the pianist seemed to have nothing more to prove. As the decade opened, the pianist was a byword for elegance, modesty and joyfulness.
It was at the initiative of producer and impresario Norman Granz that, for the very first time in 1952, the legendary hall of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam opened its doors to music other than the classics. Afro-American, popular music was still too often considered “illegitimate” in the ears of many distinguished music lovers. But jazz was an immediate success, and after that the venerable institution welcomed jazz musicians to give concerts scheduled around midnight in their large hall. The Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson was, of course, one of the great stars tasked with spreading the good word of swing to Europe. Throughout the 1950s, the stars of jazz played at the Concertgebouw on many occasions. He was a lover of classical music from Bach to Rachmaninov, and an erudite one at that. It is likely that the Verve label, wanting to make the most of the legitimacy that came with performing in such a prestigious concert hall, brought out a record entitled Oscar Peterson Trio at the Concertgebouw in 1957. And although Peterson actually played in Amsterdam that year with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, the album proved to be a fake, comprising excerpts of concerts recorded in far less prestigious halls in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Peterson, unanimously considered as a phenomenon of the keyboard who had succeeded in achieving a synthesis between the masters of classical piano jazz even as he integrated the influence of artists in transition whose status was not that easy to pin down, he won over enlightened amateurs and newcomers to jazz with his radiant, virtuoso and charmingly light music. Although everything around him was trembling on its foundations, battered by the free jazz that was emerging, Peterson’s music, serene and free of showy moodiness, embodied the permanence of a certain golden age of jazz. It seemed sheltered from the vicissitudes of time and the aesthetic upheavals prefigured by the revolutions that were taking place. Yet, even if it seemed impossible to change a style that had reached maturity and appeared entrenched in its perfection, Peterson reached a particularly creative period in his career. He had spent most of the 1950s taking the orchestral formation of piano, bass and guitar, created by Art Tatum and transformed into myth by Nat King Cole, to the pinnacle of refinement and organic cohesion. He had recently formed a particularly tightly wrought new trio, modifying considerably the orchestral dynamics in which his piano had to fit, and integrating the subtle beat of the great percussionist Ed Thigpen next to bass player Ray Brown, his faithful partner since the early 1950s.
After two years of touring the world the trio was on top form and the quality of the sound is on a par with their music.
Of course, the focus is on Peterson's clear and virtuosic playing, his music is lyrical without slipping into sentimentality, his touch sounds so easy that the fun of playing is dripping off.
The albums have been exceptionally well-edited, with pleasantly felt cardboard covers and luxuriously executed booklets. The fitting name for this special series is 'The Lost Recordings'.
It remains a miracle of ingenuity how this trio, with Ray Brown as always sure anchor, never misses a turn. I call that: 'being home in the matter' and 'responding flexibly to new choices of fellow musicians'. Essential qualities of a good jazz musician.