Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oscar Takes a Chill Pill

Gary Giddins recently mentioned to me that his favorite piano duet recordings were the Pablo albums pairing Count Basie and Oscar Peterson because each of the two participants could be so easily identified. Have two players ever had such diametrically opposed styles? Oscar never met a note he couldn't jackhammer into a two bar phrase, while Bill Basie seemed reticent to touch a key for fear of disturbing it. Yes, it doesn't take a listener with Giddins's attuned ears to tell them apart.
In this charming get together Basie takes to slow blues as if to the manor born; the big surprise is that the loquacious Canadian also dons the cloak of the kid from Red Bank, New Jersey. Has Peterson ever played so sparely? And why didn't he bask in effective simplicity more often? Restraint may have been the greatest tribute that Peterson bestowed on the older master.

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