Oscar Peterson Plays Jerome Kern

Oscar Peterson Plays Jerome Kern

A Fine Romance
Can't Help Lovin Dat Man
I Won't Dance
Long Ago and Far Away
Lovely To Look At
Ol' Man River
Pick Yourself Up
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
The Song Is You
The Way You Look Tonight

The Jonesboro Public Library subscribes to the Freegal program for it's patrons. Freegal allows card holders to download or stream music from their computer. The library offered is large and varied but not real strong on contemporary jazz. They do, however offer many great Oscar Peterson albums so I have been downloading them. Downloading six songs a week it only took me two weeks to get this Jerome Kern anthology. When I put them in my media player they came up in alphabetical order so probably not the way they were intended to be listened to.

According to Dr. Ken Carroll, Director of Jazz Studies at ASU, Oscar Peterson is the best jazz pianist in the history of jazz. His virtuosity is astounding and he can play anything from jazz to blues to boogie woogie to classical. So I was amazed to hear his simple, straightforward renditions of these Jerome Kern standards. He keeps his virtuosity well hidden until he plays "Ol' Man River". Not to say that there's anything wrong with his arrangements. Not a note out of place and not an extra note. Then on "Pick Yourself Up" he really lets loose with amazing streams of notes interspresed with what could be single finger melody lines.

With "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" he is back to the same sound that he had on the first six songs but with some ornamentation. As he continues through the piece the playing gets simpler and simpler and sounds better and better.

"The Song Is You" is uptempo and he starts off cooking but contrary to "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" he doubles down and gets amazing for a while before coming back to the melody to close.

On "The Way You Look Tonight" He chords through the melody on the head giving his bass player some room to play. Then he solos once around keeping it pretty restrained. He comes back to chords on the way out and the drummer and the bass player get some space to work out.

He takes some liberties with "Yesterdays" on the intro repeating themes in different octaves with full keyboard runs in between. When he comes to the song the melody dominates but still with substantial fills. Only when he gets to the end of the piece do we get the simple straightforward arrangement that characterize this album.

I love listening to virtuoso pianists playing great jazz, especially standards. But displays of virtuosity turn me off. I'm here for the song, not the pianist. On this album Oscar Peterson presents Jerome Kern's standards in a way anyone can enjoy.