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A Tribute to Oscar Peterson Hybrid SACD - DSD

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, March 25, 2014
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Product Description

On his 16th birthday, Andrew Litton received a solo album of Oscar Peterson playing his own jazz improvisations. Gobsmacked, he began collecting all of Peterson's recordings. Coming across transcriptions of Peterson's improvisations, he then began collecting and learning them himself. Now, in tribute to his hero, Mr. Litton has recorded his own performances of some of these transcriptions, including Monk's 'Round Midnight, Billy Strayhorn's Take the 'A' Train and Thad Jones' A Child Is Born.


Classical pianist Andrew Litton's homage to Oscar Peterson in the guise of performances of Peterson's improvisations is not the first of its kind. In 2004, pianist Steven Mayer released a collection of Art Tatum improvisations on Naxos (Art Tatum-Improvisations). Both releases are interesting listening because of the novelty of classical pianists performing the improvisations by jazz pianists as a matter of rote election. This approach effectively "freezes" a particular performance of a standard making it a singular work of art in itself.

Litton is of a generation of pianist who heard the likes of Horowitz, Rubinstein, Richter and Gilels live in concert. He also heard Peterson, whose powerful technique and color and voicing palettes impressed him as a master of interpretation. In this collection are rollicking performances of "Lulu's Back in Town," "Take the 'A' Train" and "Perdido" while Litton channels Peterson's incredible ballad spirit on "'Round Midnight," "A child is Born" and "The Nearness of You." Litton's touch is light and his pedal use judicious. The performance sonics are of a concert hall, spaciously captured, in not a little chilly in personality. No matter. These performances are spot on. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then Peterson should be smiling in heaven. --All About Jazz

If I understand what Andrew Litton is doing in his new solo piano album, A Tribute to Oscar Peterson, it is something akin to an Elvis imitator or one of those Beatles tribute bands. As he explains it, he is playing transcriptions of Peterson's arrangements taken right off his CDs, replicating what the master had done. Now since Litton is quite obviously a musician who knows his way around the piano, his performances certainly do justice to the originals, at least in the sense that he plays with a joy and passion for the music.

But, and there is a but, the thing that made Peterson a great jazz pianist was his creativity in the moment. It wasn't just that he played beautifully; it was that he was creating while he played. I'm not sure that a more creative approach to the great pianist's music, one that took his arrangements to another level, wouldn't have made a more effective tribute. It would certainly have been closer to the spirit of his work.

That said, if you can't have Peterson playing Peterson, Litton, a classical conductor and soloist, is a worthy substitute. And if he isn't primarily a jazz pianist, he is a pianist with talent who understands how to interpret a piece of music. He understands color and harmony, but must importantly he understands Oscar Peterson.

The album features Litton performing a dozen tunes Peterson culled from the Great American Songbook, as well as a jazz classic or two. The set opens on the upbeat with a romp through Harry Warren/Al Dubin's "Lulu's Back in Town." The mood shifts with the tightly woven drama of Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" and a vintage take on the classic, "Body and Soul."

There is special emphasis on the song Litton calls his "all time favorite Oscar track," a song he has been playing as an occasional encore, "Little Girl Blue." There are fine versions of "Take the 'A' Train," "Basin Street Blues," "How Long Has This Been Going On," and "The Nearness of You." The set ends with a smashing take on "Perdido,"

This is great music played with real skill.

The album is recorded as a hybrid disc that plays on both CD and SACD Surround players. --Jack Goodstein, Blogcritics

We all have artists or even specific recordings that we claim "changed our life" even musicians know that isn't a true statement. It is a dream yet for Andrew Litton he made his dream into his own reality. An accomplished and classical pianist in his own right, Litton connected with not just the technique but with the vivid colors presented in Peterson's harmonic soul. A Tribute to Oscar Peterson is a stirring improvisational riff on the man, the music and his indelible mark on the music world. The tunes are here but expected and somewhat eclectic and this is what makes the release special. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Oscar Peterson did not bang out the same set list night and night as there were always little gems presented as only Peterson could. Favorites on this particular offering include "Take The A Train" along with "Basin Street Blues" and an inspired "Over The Rainbow." Solo piano is the most daunting format in music. Solo piano as a tribute to Oscar Peterson kicks it up a notch. Andrew Litton pulls it off with style, flair and a harmonic reach not as an imitation but as his own riff on the master. That is why this release works so well, it is from the heart. --Bop-N-Jazz

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 25, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: BIS
  • ASIN: B00H4M64BQ
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,051 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Litton fingers can't move like Oscer's did but his playing is a really nice homage to Oscar without trying to ape him. I like Litton as a conductor and I like his piano playing, both classical and jazz.
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By Janet McGaw on October 27, 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Andrew Litton is an incredible talent. As a conductor or pianist, he is outstanding.
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I am an Andrew Litton fan and I've enjoyed this CD.
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