Named the "Very Tall Band" after their 1961 Verve recording, bassist Ray Brown, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, and pianist Oscar Peterson present some no-nonsense, straightahead jazz before an appreciative audience at New York's famed Blue Note club. With Peterson's devilish Art Tatum
-derived piano solos, Jackson's sanctified swing, and Brown's deep tones and astonishing dexterity, this awesome trio, with young lion Karriem Riggins holding down the drum chair in "bomb-dropping," Kenny Clarke
fashion, conduct a six-decade-old musical conversation peppered with bop, hard bop, and Latin references. The mainstream gems, "Ja-Da" and "Sometimes I'm Happy," show how the group bobs and weaves harmony, rhythm, and melody into hip, swinging grooves, while Peterson's angelic chords on the ballad "When Summer Comes" and athletic arpeggios on the brisk "Caravan" reveal no ill effects from the stroke he suffered earlier in the 1990s. Jackson's "SKJ" is the perfect vehicle for his flawless church-style solos, as is his patented tour-de-force performance on "Nature Boy." Brown, who played with Jackson in Dizzy Gillespie
's late-'40s big band, and in Peterson's award-winning combos, makes his formidable presence felt on his Mahalia Jackson
-esque composition "Blues for JR"--which was done as "Pyramid" by the Modern Jazz Quartet
--and on the bass solo medley of "Full Moon and Empty Arms," "The Very Thought of You," and "Work Song," he runs through the history of jazz bass in spectacular fashion. Overall, this is an extraordinary date by three timeless masters. --Eugene Holley Jr.