While it's true that Oscar Peterson compilations appeared with regularity form the early '60s on, only a few of them – as with most recording artists – have any real merit. This two-disc collection from the Concord Music Group's Telarc label, is one of them. Appearing less than a year before his death, this compilation concentrates on recordings issued from the '50s through the middle of the '80s on Dizzy Gillespie's Pablo label, and those made for Telarc between 1990 and 2000. Many live dates are included here from both labels, including "Tenderly" with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown at the J.A.T.P. concerts in Japan; the trio dates at Zardi's in 1955 ("How High the Moon"), in Copenhagen with Joe Pass, Stéphane Grappelli, and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen in 1979, and Mickey Roker in 1979 ("Nuages")….
Baritonist Gerry Mulligan had at the time of this recording been a jazz giant for 45 years. His slightly bubbly baritone sound has always been distinctive and he never had difficulty jamming with anyone. In the 1990s Mulligan's regular trio has been comprised of pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Dean Johnson and drummer Ron Vincent. The sidemen work together very well on this quartet date (Bill Mays fills in for Rosenthal on two songs) and form a solid foundation for Mulligan to float over. The baritonist performs a variety of superior standards such as "Home," "They Say It's Wonderful," and "My Shining Hour," revives "My Funny Valentine"; he also revisits a few of his originals (including "Walking Shoes" and "Song for Strayhorn"). This is a fine example of Gerry Mulligan's playing.
Bring together an all-star lineup of singers and musicians, match them with accessibly romantic melodies and radio-friendly arrangements, and the results will either be lightweight pabulum or superb high-quality pop music. In the case of producer Jason Miles' A Love Affair, it's unquestionably the latter. Even after 30 years on the world music scene, Brazilian musician/composer Ivan Lins may not have had a high profile. However, as this tribute recording demonstrates, his music is as fine as anything that has come out of his native country since the bossa nova heyday of the early '60s. Taken individually, each of these songs is a piece of joyous musical exuberance. Taken as a whole, this recording is better than an hour with any radio station you're going to find on the dial or online.
Generally speaking, guitar wizard Al Di Meola has divided his musical attentions over the years between electric and acoustic, fusion and world music directions. This time out he splits the difference with some dazzling results. Coming off his short-lived reunion with Return to Forever, Di Meola returns to the solo spotlight with Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody, a strong and varied effort that moves mostly in the acoustic direction and features some high-profile personnel, including pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and bassist Charlie Haden.
Classical violinist Itzhak Perlman is not a jazz improviser, so this meeting with the Oscar Peterson Quartet is more a loving tribute to the melodies (ten veteran standards plus two Peterson originals) than a strong jazz date. While Perlman sticks closely to the themes, one's attention focuses much more on Peterson, who had suffered a serious stroke a few years earlier and had been inactive ever since. Peterson sounds healthy in his supportive role, and although it is doubtful if he sweat much during this relaxed music, his apparent comeback is great news. Guitarist Herb Ellis has the most rewarding solos, although his spots are short.
The great contribution of Robert Shaw to choral music has brought the listener to expect that nearly any recording or live performance under Shaw's direction will be thoroughly stunning, refreshing and performed with remarkable musical insight…
…Kunzel's Ruslan and Ludmilla overture is suitably festive, even if it doesn't quite achieve the breathless intensity exhibited by Bernstein or Pletnev. But then, being "definitive" isn't the point of this album–enjoyable music-making is, and in that respect it's a triumph. Especially so as the Cincinnati Pops plays masterfully and with great enthusiasm throughout the program. (Listen to the bold trombones in Mussorgsky's Polonaise or to the singing strings in Spartacus.) Telarc captures it all in its signature vivid, high-impact sound. Yes, I know you already have a couple of Russian favorites discs in your collection, but this new Telarc release is special enough that you'll want to make room for it.