Oscar Peterson may not only have been the most famous jazz pianist to have ever lived, he may also have been the most recorded. As featured artist, co-leader, and valued sideman, the Canadian keyboardist can be found on literally hundreds of albums. These often astonishing recordings also drew audiences to Peterson?s live performances over the decades: his speed, agility, and precision would have to be seen to be believed. But Peterson was more than a technical marvel. When the stars were aligned, Peterson offered a beautiful piano sound that, when matched with his relentless swing, prodigious harmonic knowledge, and lexicon of sturdy jazz melodies, could profoundly please as well as astound. There isn?t just one Peterson recording that captures the essence of this remarkable musician — how could there be? — but Night Train (pictured here) will do just fine. With his phenomenal technique, Peterson could have easily operated as a one-man show, but he was also a surprisingly gifted bandleader, and this 1962 gem features two of his most sympathetic bandmates: bassist extraordinaire Ray Brown and the vastly underrated drummer Ed Thigpen. Together they give a master class in small-group swing, with the leader, relaxed yet fully in charge, displaying an admirable spareness. Jazz lost its share of giants in 2007, but for a great many, Peterson?s exit is the deepest cut. -
About the Author
Steve Futterman writes the "Jazz and Standards" listings for The New Yorker.