DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Oscar Peterson’s Easter Suite – (1984/2012)

The only recording of this rare original suite by Oscar Peterson.

Published on March 19, 2012

Oscar Peterson’s Easter Suite – (1984/2012)

From British TV South Bank Show
Studio: Arthaus Musik 107 063 [2/28/12] [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM 2.0
Subtitles: German, French, English, Italian
Extras: Composer’s commentary
Worldwide region code
Length: 50 minutes
Rating: *****

Odd that this is considered one of Peterson’s major compositions, yet it has not been available on CD and this is the only version of the nine-movement work which Peterson created for his trio especially for this 1984 telecast in London.  I tried several different ways to access the “Composer’s commentary” on the disc, where Peterson talks about his initial skepticism about dealing with such a religious subject in jazz, but again ran into a navigation problem and couldn’t make it play. (Time didn’t permit also trying it on my computer.)

Peterson falls into line with Duke Ellington, Lalo Schifrin, Mary Lou Williams, and other jazz figures in the creation of a work or works of jazz inspired by religious motifs. To give an idea of the structure of the suite, here are the titles of the nine movements: The Last Supper, The Garden of Gethsemane, Denial, Why Have You Betrayed Me, The Trial, Are You Really King of the Jews, Why Hast You Forsaken Me, Jesus Christ Lies Here Tonight, He Has Risen. The subject is the passion and resurrection of Jesus. Each movement is preceeded by an illustrated title slide and concluded with an image from some art tying in with the incident described in the movement.

One can either follow the religious structure of the work or just listen for the excellent mainstream, swinging, jazz-making by Peterson and his two cohorts: Niels-Henning Orstedt Pedersen on acoustic bass and drummer Martin Drew. The setting is well-planned and there are many closeups of Peterson’s keyboard action. There is also a 20-page illustrated booklet with an essay on Peterson in three languages. The color image is excellent and the sound is about what one would expect in a 5.1 mix of a standard stereo original (in other words you might be better off staying with the PCM stereo feed, and perhaps using ProLogic if you want a surround effect).

—John Henry




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