Oscar Peterson Plays (Verve)
In this five-CD reissue, the formidable pianist plays pieces by ten composers who dominated American popular music for decades. Peterson had bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Barney Kessel, succeeded by Herb Ellis. It’s the trio that made Peterson famous with Jazz At The Philharmonic and–by way of the 10 albums reproduced here–on juke boxes and radio stations everywhere, when jazz was popular music. Among the songwriters are Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans and Richard Rogers. Peterson’s playing is exquisite, his support by Brown, Kessel and Ellis impeccable, the melodies precious to generations. The tracks tend to average three minutes or so. To single out just two performances, “Blue Skies” from the Berlin collection is impossibly fast and impossibly relaxed, Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” is a tribute to a Peterson idol that verges on prayerfulness.