In yet another archaeological discovery of rare doubloons and hoary artifacts, Jazzhaus has issued a very meaty collection of Oscar Pettiford performances with a number of German and other jazz notables, a clutch of somewhat stripped down gigs that give full spectrum insight into not only Pettiford's well-known talents but also those of his accompanists. The recording itself is crystal clear, indeed audiophilic with three-dimensional transparency, and is literally a study of the beating heart of jazz.
It's little known that Pettiford was three-quarters American Native, one-quarter African-American, but it's widely still commented upon that he was a pioneer in be-bop and in the use of the cello as a solo jazz instrument. More, along with Charlie Mingus, Pettiford was one of the most recorded bass-playing bandleader-composers in jazz history. That last part was no accident, no fluke, and from the git-go in this 16-cut collection, the lyricality of his playing is immediately evident. The disc opens with a duet with Dusko Goyavitch on Gershwin's But not for Me followed by a quartet in the Duke's Sophisticated Lady. That first cut features a very much up-front Oscar, the second recesses him until the double-bass section enters and complements Lucky Thompson's saxwork, and the effect reverses norms: the sax is usually the instrument to emit lines a singer might take, but it's Pettiford's that does so, and here like a vocalist ruminating on the past. The transposition is clever and evokes a grin.
Minor Plus A Major strikes up as a gently bopping number with some great clarinet from writer Rolf Kuhn, Pettiford plucking away in the background. Kuhn fades, leaving Jimmy Pratt's percussives to underscore Oscar in a solo in which the germinal seeds of Dave Holland may be found, including a coolly weird tension created as the song ends in a half-resolved mode. Again: unorthodoxy within pristine trad playing. Elsewhere, Hans and Attila Zoller show up as well as Kenny Clarke, Hans Hammerschmid, and others, but not a single track goes by that isn't full-blooded, solid, innovative, highly expressive, completely authentic period jazz. All these guys must've had a ball laying down the tracks, but what they created under Pettiford's aegis must be heard to be fully appreciated, as it transcends even the more impressive works in the canon and attains to heights that cannot be put into words…save perhaps for a single adjective: 'remarkable'.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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