If there were two contemporaries who could put the sweat in each other, it had to be Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. Oscar had a harder edge, more the bop and swing in him, while Bill was the Romantic and classicalist, but both could cut the rug out from under a symphony orchestra when they got going in their chops. Peterson was as clean as they came, each note crystalline, every chord a well-defined cluster, and this trio is still considered to be one of the best ever produced in jazz, Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. Clark Terry drops in on cornet and trumpet, Roy Eldridge doing the same on just trumpet, but center stage belongs to the trio.
A number of classics come up for treatment during this 84 minute feast—Misty, On Green Dolphin Street, and so on—with Satin Doll demonstrating how Peterson could make a song dance on its own head, changing up all over the place, flurries of notes cascading just before blocks of chords fly up, the piano completely pliable under his hands. (Oh, and if you want to see where the theme to the TV show *Bewitched* came from, listen here.)
When it came to sheer purity of tone, Peterson was the guy, his time's Al DiMeola on the piano. People speak of trying to follow modern guitarists' fingers during solos—well, the camera zooms in on Oscar's digits, and they're just blurs. How anyone could control ten separate pegs like that? It's above human, but seeing is believeing, and that's part of the magic of these DVDs: you're right there, closer than the audience itself ever got, up close and personal, witness to the miraculous.
That said, there are many I'd listen to over Peterson—Corea, Jarrett, Evans, and so on—but there's no denying the man's brilliance and this set of video momentos is something I'll be returning to time and again. There may be voices I prefer over his, but it's nothing short of incredible to watch a man do what Oscar Peterson does. Those who think all the time in between then and now may have produced a higher caliber of player would do well to catch these rare tapes and think again.
Links to the reviews of the other DVDs in this set:
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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