FAME Review: Andrew Litton - A Tribute to Oscar Peterson
Andrew Litton - A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

Andrew Litton

BIS Records - BIS2034

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

In the liner notes to A Tribute to Oscar Peterson, Andrew Litton makes more than obvious the marrow-deep respect, indeed aesthetic enamorment, he has always held for jazz legend Oscar Peterson. The anecdote he cites in which he reverted to an eager-kid state of mind after finding out Steven Osbourne had transcribed Peterson's Little Girl Blue, offering the fellow keys tinkler anything he wanted in trade for a copy, will bring a knowing grin to all true music lovers. I understand that ecstatic state all too well in similar terms: as a teenager in high school, I heard Barclay James Harvest's Dark Now my Skies several times on the radio, and, unable to find it in local shops while equally unable to bear another day without it, I hopped on my 10-speed, biked the 18 miles from Hawthorne through South Central to Tower Records Hollywood late at night in 1970, bought the LP, raced back home as midnight approached, and played it three times straight through the moment I got to my stereo. I still have that exact same vinyl.

For a strong leap into exactly what's going on here, I suggest you start with Litton's recitation of Peterson's take on the imperishable Round Midnight, an improv as simultaneously cool and insane as what Keith Jarrett does in his own perambulations upon classics…and you know how good Keith, THE piano god in my estimation, is. Some of the passages are cool and thoughtful, others abruptly breathtaking, but never are Oscar's shimmering cascades of notes left wanting nor his Romantic leanings. The entire disc is just Litton and a piano, recorded in Super Audio (SACD) but compatible with any CD player, so that you get something of an MFSL/Nautilus level quality, that return to old hi-fi standards, along with a concert hall ambiance, occasionally a saloon environment in which, as in Basin Street Blues, the boogie and stride elements get up and dance with the hoochie mamas and tipplers.

Regardless, though, this is a disc of non-stop top-shelf pianistics in commemoration of a giant whose acumen is studied and admired to this day, even to the extent of a sustain pedal feathering technique rivalled only by classicalist goliath Vladimir Horowitz. And that photo of Litton and Peterson on the cover? It isn't a Photoshop piece but an actual snapshot of a meeting between the two when Oscar came to play Wolf Trap in 1985 while Andrew served as assistant conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich. Quite a confluence, and the radiant smile on Litton's face is unmistakeable as a peak experience in his life. This Cd is the outflow of that.

Track List:

  • Lulu's Back in Town (Harry Warren)
  • 'Round Midnight (Monk / Williams)
  • Body and Soul (Johnny Green)
  • A Child Is Born (Thad Jones)
  • Little Girl Blue (Richard Rodgers)
  • Take the A Train (Billy Strayhorn)
  • Basin Street Blues (Spencer Williams)
  • How Long Has This Been Going On? (George Gershwin)
  • The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael)
  • Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen)
  • Things Ain't What They Used to Be (Mercer 'Duke' Ellington)
  • Perdido (Juan Tizol)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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