May 24, 2024

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CD review: The Oscar Peterson Trio – Con Alma: Live in Lugano, 1964 – 2023: Video, CD cover

Oscar Peterson’s trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen is widely regarded as Peterson’s “classic trio,” considered by fans as the most popular and in-demand of his long and storied career (featured on releases such as 1963’s Night Train and 1964’s We Get Requests).

Recorded during their creative peak in 1964 (5 years into their collaboration), this previously unheard and unreleased live performance is destined to become a fan favorite from the Oscar Peterson vaults. In his memoir Peterson reflects on the dedication that Ray and Ed brought to the group:

“In addition to our trio rehearsals, therefore, Ray would call his own rehearsals in his or Ed’s room and they would simply practice ‘time.’ They created a flexible and multi-faceted rhythmical language that they could apply to any musical statement I might make and enhance any direction I might choose. In short, they practiced ‘all the possibles.’” – Oscar Peterson

This is indeed what has made the success of the excellent label that is Mac Avenue, preserving the collective memory while offering new generations of jazz musicians a silver platter to showcase their talents. Lugano, in the southern part of Switzerland, in its Italian-speaking region where cultural diversity forms a unique richness, it’s no wonder that this concert is particularly magical. Even though Mack Avenue’s work on this recording is always remarkable, the sound from the Neumann microphones and Studer consoles of the time allows for a graceful cleanup and a pristine rendering, whether on CD or vinyl.

Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, acting here as skillful metronomes, allow their grace to shine like dancers on the opera stage, energized by an exceptionally warm audience that clearly marvels at the presence of these three jazz legends. “Con alma,” a standout track in the middle of this album, is particularly impressive. Depending on the moments, Oscar Peterson is more modern than ever, and it’s Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen who kick off the track, with Oscar Peterson weaving his way in between and atop the notes.

Oscar Peterson’s music could very well have been composed today, and this album joins the two other marvels already released by Mac Avenue. In just six tracks, it fills us with joy and emotions. Much like the album by Bob James I mentioned recently, we are in the presence of jazz legends here, transcending what we typically consider essential. Beyond these considerations, this excellent album should be seen primarily as a document for today’s and future generations.

1 Waltz for Debby (Live) 07:20
2 My One and Only Love (Live) 06:03
3 Blues for My Landlady (Live) 11:01
4 Con Alma (Live) 06:26
5 I Could Write a Book (Live) 07:38
6 It Ain’t Necessarily So (Live) 05:18

Oscar Peterson – piano
Ray Brown – bass
Ed Thigpen – drums

Oscar Peterson

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