Dec 26, 2021
In a time when archival releases are becoming almost commonplace, it’s worth taking an extra moment to focus on A Time for Love: The Oscar Peterson Quartet – Live in Helsinki, 1987 from Two Lions/Mack Avenue Records.
The final gig of a long international tour that began with 4 concerts in Brazil, this date was the 14th of a European tour that took the quartet all over mainland Europe and Scandinavia. With a remarkable quartet of Joe Pass on guitar and the bass/drums tandem of Dave Young and Martin Drew – all of whom at the time of this recording were about halfway through their thirty-year affiliations with Peterson – the wildly enthusiastic Helsinki audience was treated to a marvelous performance.
The first set consists exclusively of Peterson’s own compositions – an important focus in his widow (and the album’s producer) Kelly Peterson’s efforts to further enhance his immortal legacy. The second set features Peterson’s enthralling exploration of time-honored jazz and songbook classics, including two virtuosic solo performances: Pass’ exquisite rendition of the iconic Disney tune “When You Wish Upon a Star” and Peterson’s delightful take on Bill Evans’ “A Waltz for Debby.” The encore is an explosive take on another Oscar original, “Blues Etude.”
None other than Duke Ellington tagged Peterson with the title “the Maharajah of the keyboard,” and the moniker was well earned. With eight Grammy awards and over 200 albums of his own, Peterson’s amazing ability to temper his own magnificence as a leader and soloist to be able to provide totally empathetic and subtle accompaniment to other musicians and vocalists – especially in his guitar-piano-bass trios with the likes of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown – made him a contributor to hundreds of other outstanding recordings, most notably as the virtual “house pianist” for his longtime manager Norman Granz’s Verve and Pablo Records. A professional since the age of 14, the Canadian born Peterson passed away at the age of 82 in 2007.
He was married to Kelly Peterson for twenty years, and she traveled the world with him. She was crucial to his continued playing and performing after a stroke in 1993 compromised his right hand. She now represents his Estate, producing and curating what is hopefully a series of previously unreleased or under-distributed work over the next few years.
Podcast 872 is my conversation with Kelly, as we talk about the legacy of Oscar Peterson, not just as a performer, but as a composer as well. We talk about his legendary collaborations with Pass, Ellis, Brown and more, and why musicians stayed with him for long stretches of time. Musical selections from A Time for Love include “How High the Moon” and “Blues Etude.”