Oscar Peterson Quartet – ‘A Time for Love: Live in Helsinki, 1987’ Showcases Live Piano Radiance (ALBUM REVIEW)

As we put a bow on 2021, it has been marked with over a dozen remarkable never-released albums. My guess is that this is due to two factors – the pandemic providing more time for research, and, more importantly, the success of these endeavors over recent years. Now we bring you yet another, A Time For Love: The Oscar Peterson Quartet – Live in Helsinki, 1987. This performance was the final concert of a 14-city tour beginning in South America and ending in Europe. You’ll hear the enthusiastic response from the audience as they respond to the telepathic interplay of this quartet with Oscar Peterson (piano), Joe Pass (guitar), Dave Young (bass), and Martin Drew (drums). At the time all members of the quartet were about halfway through their thirty-year affiliations with Peterson. The live performance, presented in its unedited entirety, brings you right into the concert hall, as if you are sitting with this engaged, appreciative audience.

This will be available as a double CD and as a 3-LP set as well as digitally. Liner notes are from the venerable octogenarian Dave Young, who issued his own Mantra just a few weeks ago; Peterson protégé Benny Green, and Peterson’s wife and producer of the project, Kelly Peterson

The first set (Disc One) is all Peterson originals, beginning with the bluesy strut of “Cool Walk” through a relaxed, grooving nine minutes. The blistering, rapid-fire “Sushi” follows. This and the closer of Disc One, “Cakewalk” may well be examples of “instant composition,” as Peterson was known to compose songs during the performance. In fact, the middle piece, “Love Ballade” is an example of instantaneous writing, having been composed at an earlier concert. It has a scintillating, delicate piano intro from the master, a warm answer from Pass, as well as a guitar-like lyrical bass solo from Young. On the two burners, Pass shows his lightning speed and unsurpassed clarity. Yet, the highlight for many will be Peterson’s remarkably energetic 20-minute salute to Johann Sebastian Bach, “A Salute to Bach.”  So, just in this one set alone, the versatile Peterson and his bandmates deliver bluesy soul-jazz, a couple of scorchers, exquisite balladry, and reverent classical renderings. 

The second set (Disc Two) features Peterson playing jazz standards and songbook classics. Two of these are solo renderings, Joe Pass’ take on the Disney tune “When You Wish Upon a Star” and Peterson’s reading of Bill Evans’ “A Waltz for Debbie” which occur in reverse order. The set begins with a ballad, Johnny Mandel’s “A Time for Love” before the quartet launches into their signature swinging mode for “How High the Moon,” a staple in Peterson’s renowned Jazz at the Philharmonic jams, and Benny Goodman’s “Soft Winds.” 

The last 25 minutes of this set is a brilliant homage not only to Duke Ellington (“Duke Ellington Medley”) wherein as well as in the climactic original, “Blues Etude,” Peterson echoes strains of his forbears, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, James P. Johnson, and Nat Cole by touching on swing, blues, barrelhouse, stride, boogie-woogie – a veritable history of American piano. As Kelly Peterson says in the liners. “…The exuberance of the quartet at its fastest tempos and the breathtaking depths of emotion during the quietest ballads.”  In the Duke medley, there are six classics, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Come Sunday,” “C-Jam Blues” “Lush Life,” and “Caravan,” a masterful exhibition of tempo and dynamic changes. The blurringly fast tempo in “Caravan” generates an uproarious response as the audience stays in applause even as Pass begins “Blues Etude,” sustaining the blinding speed before Peterson enters with an array of styles as mentioned above.

This is simply classic jazz at its finest – an over-the-top, flawless performance.

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