Feeling the Spirit
Oscar Peterson is justly celebrated as one of jazz’s greatest pianists, but he’s less well known for his compositional achievements. Happily, we now have this DVD of the premiere recording of one of his signature works, the Easter Suite. The nine-movement composition was commissioned by the BBC’s South Bank Show and broadcast throughout Britain on Good Friday in 1984. Accompanied by his longtime drummer Martin Drew and the great Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Peterson delivers his interpretation of the Easter story through the basic language of jazz, embellished with blues, classical and gospel elements. Although the music is inspired by the passion and resurrection of Jesus, one can set aside the spiritual connotations and focus solely on the music itself, which is straight-ahead, swinging, soulful Oscar Peterson jazz. Filmed in the intimate confines of a BBC television studio, it’s like having a front-row seat at one of the pianist’s gigs. Icing on the cake is a fascinating interview with South Bank Show host Melvyn Bragg, in which Peterson breaks down his approach to writing the suite as well as his musical interaction with Drew and Pedersen. It’s a fascinating discussion, and a perfect complement to an enthralling and inspiring performance.
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