Oscar Peterson: Okie Blues
Oscar Peterson (piano)
The History of an Artist (Original Jazz Classics 2625702)
Composed by Oscar Peterson.
Recorded: Los Angeles, December 27, 1972
Rating: 91/100 (learn more)
This track reunites the 1951 Oscar Peterson Trio, two decades hence, doing an O.P. original named for prodigal picker Barney Kessel, who was, in the words of Merle Haggard's 1969 redneck anthem, proud to be an Okie from Muskogee. But both halves of Oscar's title were equally true, for Barney's blues roots were planted deep in what remained of the Oklahoma prairie lands during the devastating Dust Bowl of his childhood. For that matter, O.P. himself—contrary to carping by such perpetual naysayers as Miles Davis—could be a convincingly bluesy pianist when he wanted to be. And here, obviously, he wanted to be. Which leaves only bassist Ray Brown, about whom nobody anywhere would dare question his ability to play anything. This is not a perfect track: at about 6˝ minutes in, Barney's and Oscar's chords clash distressingly for a chorus. (Has one of Kessel's strings fallen out of tune?) But Oscar quickly saves the day with his trademark two-handed rolling tremolos. If, as Longfellow held, "Music is the universal language of mankind" (and where else but Jazz.com could you find a 210-word review that invokes both Merle Haggard and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?), then blues is the dialect that all jazzmen must speak. The speakers here are downright eloquent.
Reviewer: Alan Kurtz