Andrew Litton – A Tribute to Oscar Peterson (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96kHz | Time – 52:38 minutes | 522 MB | Genre: Jazz
Official Digital Download – Source: eclassical.com | @ BIS Records AB
Recorded: November 2012 at Potton Hall, Suffolk, England
On his 16th birthday, receiving an LP of Oscar Peterson playing solo, Andrew Litton was ‘hooked’, to use his own term: ‘If I’ve ever experienced anything close to an epiphany, this was it!’ Having had opportunities to hear pianists such as Horowitz, Rubinstein, Richter and Gilels in recital, he was struck by Peterson’s playing: ’the amazing colours and voicing, the feathering of the sustain pedal (only Horowitz had such an astonishing pedal technique!), the achingly beautiful original harmonies…’
Collecting all of Peterson’s recordings and seeking out opportunities to hear him live and meet him in person, over the years Litton realized that the admiration he felt was shared by many of the classical musicians that he met during his ‘day job’ as a conductor.
When he started to come across transcriptions of Peterson’s improvisations made by such musician friends, Litton began collecting and learning them himself. He started with one of his personal favourites, Richard Rodgers’ Little Girl Blue, using it as an encore when making appearances as a pianist – he even played it at a memorial service for his late mother. As he kept learning new improvisations, what Litton himself describes as ‘a dream’ took shape – to record his own performances of some of these transcriptions as a tribute to his hero.
Litton’s selection includes twelve classic songs from recordings spanning four decades, from Thelonius Monk’s ‘Round Midnight and Billy Strayhorn’s Take the ‘A’ Train to Thad Jones’ A Child is Born, and his preparations for this very special recording have if anything deepened his admiration for Peterson: ‘He did things daily at the piano while spontaneously improvising that the rest of us spend a lifetime trying to achieve.’
Andrew Litton is best known as a conductor and was recently announced as the director of the Colorado Symphony, a role he also holds with the Bergen Philharmonic. He is conductor laureate of the Bournemouth Symphony, and has a number of extremely fine recordings to his name. I knew of his interest in jazz piano but it was a serendipitous meeting in London that led to the existence of this CD. A musical gathering saw Litton, Stephen Hough and Steven Osborne play for friends. It was Osborne who piqued Litton’s interest with a performance of Osborne’s own arrangement of an Oscar Peterson tune. Osborne’s transcriptions – he took them down from the Peterson recordings – form the basis of this beautifully recorded, artistically successful disc.
To the question, why record Peterson transcriptions – why not listen to the original? – I suppose one could counter-argue; why not? Litton is an articulate soloist, stylistically very much aware of the milieu, plays on a gorgeous-sounding Bцsendorfer Imperial in an excellent acoustic venue – Potton Hall, a familiar and well-liked studio space. Also, he has taken all-solo Peterson recordings so we get a kind of Essence of Oscar feel in this 54-minute recital of largely well-established pieces from the Songbook.
Lulu’s Back in Town is an up-tempo swinger whilst in ‘Round Midnight Litton relishes Peterson’s sometimes quite rich harmonies, those powerful runs, and the sheer amplitude of the thing. He replicates Peterson’s compulsive look at the implications of Body and Soul with substituted chords and a wistful sense, too, of the piece’s trajectory. Little Girl Blue is, indeed, as Litton avers suffused in plangent harmonies and also a sense of optimistic upturn – this is a favourite piece of Litton’s and he played it at his mother’s memorial service. Litton is thankfully up for the challenge of breakneck Stride in Take the ‘A’ Train as well as the ultra-sophisticated variations on Spencer Williams’s Basin Street Blues as he goes through the lexicon from Stride to romanticist and beyond. Then there is the slight hint of tristesse in Over the Rainbow to enjoy, the slow rolling Blues of Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and, to finish, Peterson’s electrifying take on Juan Tizol’s Perdido.
Confirmed Petersonians may baulk at Litton being, as they might see it, literalist in his tribute. Others will greatly enjoy his joyful and confident salute, whilst knowing that Oscar’s recordings are always available to listen to, and that Litton is offering a nuanced and personal salute to the great man. –Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
1. Lulu’s Back In Town 02:14
2. ‘Round Midnight 06:31
3. Body and Soul 05:37
4. A Child Is Born 03:09
5. Jumbo: Little Girl Blue 06:27
6. Take the A Train 02:50
7. Basin Street Blues 04:42
8. Rosalie: How Long Has This Been Going On? 06:05
9. The Nearness of You 03:27
10. Over the Rainbow 02:35
11. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be 03:05
12. Perdido 07:19
Andrew Litton, piano