Title: Walking The Line
There are not too many true stars in music but you can say this about Oscar Peterson and say it with total confidence, he was one of the greatest piano players who ever lived. You think of Peterson playing and you see, hear and even feel the agility within his deft and nimble finger work. I much prefer Peterson to his own hero, Art Tatum. The latter was a supreme technician – quite possibly the best – but I only admire Tatum. His actual music is too practical for me. Too mechanical. I enjoy, am more uplifted and emotionally moved by Peterson. That’s the difference. Some say that his style was a bit too busy but he did it with with a sense of rhythm: that was his magic.
Put Peterson in a large jazz band and he would fit in very nicely but it would be a waste of effort and talent. Peterson needed to shine from a trio or even backing a vocalist as part of a small group. He had a swing style that could easily bop with the best.
This 1970 recording, for Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s label, features George “Jiri” Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums. In sound terms, I was impressed by the simultaneous impression of the grand epic and the intimate. The former is printed to the ear by the enormity and majesty of the Peterson piano. He is lavish in his serving of notation so that the ear is swamped by an energy that is exuberant but his music also swings like crazy. The intimacy can both be heard by the constant chatter and noises from the participants. They are obviously enjoying themselves and are in the moment while the bass interjects a personal, textural resonance that reminds you of the clarity of this recording.