Sometimes a jazz pianist's sheer technique can be so dazzling that it outweighs all other considerations. Such was the case with Oscar Peterson last night at Charlie's.
Peterson may not be the innovator or improviser that some of his peers are, but no one can control a keyboard better than he. It's not just that he ran off two full bars of 16th notes with fluid easiness, but that he crisply articulated every note along the way. It's not just that he shifted dynamics from hand to hand and note to note, but that he swung hard even on the softest phrases.
Danish bassist Neils-Henning Orsted Pedersen showed the same sort of agility and control as Peterson. Much as bassist Ray Brown did early in Peterson's career, Pedersen lent darker harmonies and emotional ballast to the pianist's dizzying runs. Drawing on stride, swing and show standards, as well as selections from his own "Canadian Suite," Peterson responded to Pedersen's challenges with breakneck counterpoint solos that never lost their poise. Drummer Martin Drew lent unobtrusive support throughout.
For piano fans, it was a rare chance to observe Peterson, who usually plays concert halls, at close range.