Oscar Peterson: A Time for Love – Live in Helsinki, 1987 (Mack Avenue, 2021)

December 16, 2021 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Oscar Peterson: A Time for Love – Live in Helsinki, 1987

Documenting a 1987 gig in Helsinki, this previously unheard set presents the Oscar Peterson quartet at their most joyous and spontaneous. As customary for their gigs, the setlist wasn’t predetermined, and Peterson let his musicians know what to play by launching into the song intros himself. All of the first disc is taken up by Peterson’s own compositions, while most of the second is standards. “Sushi” is an early highlight, just an incredibly fun, exuberant performance. “Love Ballade” is a soft piece which seems to consist of nothing more than piano, and “A Salute to Bach” starts out similarly, but then unexpectedly gets incredibly joyous when the full band joins in, and keeps going for 20 minutes (with pauses in between movements). “Cakewalk” just flies, the band is so full of energy that it’s absurd, and even a bit of mic feedback can’t bring them down. Benny Goodman’s “Soft Winds” is one of the full-band highlights of the second disc, while Bill Evans’ “Waltz for Debby” showcases the intricacy of Peterson’s playing. Guitarist Joe Pass plays “When You Wish Upon a Star” solo, adding some playful embellishments to the familiar melody, and then the whole band plays a lengthy Duke Ellington medley, stunningly flowing between several well-worn classics and adding their own personalities. Peterson especially takes off during “Caravan” at the end, almost making it sound like a player piano reel sped up at least five times its regular speed. The band then launches into Peterson’s own speedy “Blues Etude”, which feels like a victory lap.

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