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Jazz Review
Artist: Oscar Peterson
Performance date: July 30, 2001
Publication: New York Times
JAZZ REVIEW; Eclectic And Subtle Brute Force

Published: 07 - 30 - 2001 , Late Edition - Final , Section E , Column 1 , Page 3

NEW YORK TIMES

By BEN RATLIFF

Oscar Peterson, playing on Friday night at the Blue Note to a packed house that had begun lining up outside four hours early, was a reliable, one-man factory of amiable hybrids. He connected good-natured blues stomping, sentimental melody and classical allusions, all rendered in busy but authoritative virtuosity.

Since his stroke in 1993, which disabled his left hand, his playing has been a little different. On Friday, when he picked a tune with interesting harmony, like a bossa nova from his early set, it was really a blizzard of melody. He could depress only one (or barely two) keys at a time with his left hand, and the harmony was carried by a combination of his bassist, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, and his guitarist, Ulf Wakenius.

In the past Mr. Peterson's left hand interacted ingeniously with the rhythm-section instruments, providing some of the accents for his steady swing and adding color and subtlety to his accompaniment. On Friday he played with his back to the band, the hypermelodic prow of a ship whose oarsmen (including the drummer Martin Drew) now had more predictable roles.

Mr. Peterson is a musician with brute force who, like his idol Art Tatum, never seems to be straining, and he was at his best on uptempo and blues numbers that showed he still had formidable power to shove music along. Most of the music was theme-solos-theme, without much room for the leader to interact with individual musicians; it was all group sound. But there were some formal surprises; one soft tune swathed in 70's pop-jazz sentimentality changed direction radically into a slow four-four swing, when Mr. Peterson toyed with blues phrasing, detonating a many-chorus improvisation, full of wavelike runs that lasted through entire bars of music and covered swaths of keyboard.

The end of the set toyed with classical music, first with ''Prelude to John Lewis,'' using a gentle, dry and Lewislike touch on chords with all their notes carefully articulated, and then with the allegro movement of his ''Tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach,'' a fast swing tune with a fuguelike structure in the theme.

Published: 07 - 30 - 2001 , Late Edition - Final , Section E , Column 1 , Page 3

 

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