Thursday, October 1, 2009

Resonance Big Band: Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson

Resonance Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.1.09
Buy CD: Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson needs no introduction: He simply was the world's best jazz pianist, in any generation. His death, at age 82 in 2007, left a void that'll never be filled.

Indeed, he was so revered that no pianists are able — or willing — to claim the capability to succeed him.

But one of his fans and close friends, Arnold van Kampen, happened to catch some YouTube clips of an unknown pianist playing “Indiana.” Research failed to bring up any biographical information or albums for this individual, although van Kampen did learn his name: Marian Petrescu.

The Romanian-born pianist was 36 years old, had been playing since age 4, and was living in Finland. Resonance Records' George Klabin, another Peterson fan, also had become aware of Petrescu, and contacted him regarding a planned a tribute to Peterson; this album is the result.

The big band assembled for this effort is, in itself, a major accomplishment: The instrumentation included five reeds/flutes, four trumpets/flugelhorns, four trombones, a tuba, guitar, bass, drums and — of course — Perrescu on piano. A few tracks also include a string quartet, a second pianist, and a cabasa. Finally, three conductors were involved. The luminaries taking part included Joe La Barbara, Bill Cunliffe and Claus Ogerman.

This package contains both a CD and a DVD of the session, and the 11 tracks are arrangements of classic tunes recorded by Peterson over the years. Although the big band doesn't swing like the combos Peterson headed, it's an excellent unit. Perrescu is a masterful technician, at least as fast and facile on the keyboard as Peterson, but — and it's a huge “but” — he doesn't come close to swinging like ol' Oscar.

This album is a major accomplishment and a worthwhile tribute, but it's for the concert stage. The excitement, joy, feel and pure talent of Peterson are missing.

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