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Solo by Oscar Peterson

From his early tenure as the house pianist at Verve Records through more than half a century as a leader of his own sessions on a variety of labels, Oscar Peterson has has one of the most thoroughly documented careers in modern jazz. If there's any area that's been under-represented, though, it's been his solo performances. Unattached from the limitations of his customary trio, or the numerous duet and other recording situations he's worked in, Peterson reveals elements of his ability that aren't always apparent in the company of others.

That's certainly true of this disc, which contains two solo performances by Peterson during a European swing in 1972. When, for reasons of economics or logistics, the trio couldn't be booked into a particular venue, Peterson would often accept the gig as a solo. In these instances, he traveled alone to Baalbek, Lebanon in August and again to Amsterdam in November, bookending a tour with the trio.

One of the challenges of the solo trips was always the instrument he'd find at the end of the road, and for the date in Lebanon, which makes up the first eight tracks here, he didn't have the kind of concert piano he was generally accustomed to. Memory has blurred, but Peterson was confronted with either an upright or a baby grand, and there are passages where he's clearly testing the limits of the instrument. Given his remarkable technical facility, qualities like action and voicing were critical to the kind of performance he could produce, but whatever the limitation of the piano might have been, Peterson adapted brilliantly and turned in an excellent set. In the solo setting, he gave more emphasis to his stride style than was his custom with the trio, and the examples here are outstanding.

The rest of the disc is devoted to the Amsterdam performance, which offered an instrument of higher quality. This provided Peterson the opportunity for a more typical performance, with less time invested in probing the range of the piano. His usual decorative style and passages of breakneck velocity are in evidence. What's particularly noteworthy, in both settings, are Peterson's explorations of the blues. The critics who have knocked Peterson over the years as having an insufficient feeling for the blues need only listen to Solo for the evidence that he is as soulful as he is technically proficient.

This as a valuable addition to the catalog of a true jazz virtuoso.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Oscar Peterson
  • CD Title: Solo
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Record Label: Pablo
  • Rating: Five Stars
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