Jazz and Blues

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Few jazz artists have been so prolific over such a long timespan - four decades - as Oscar Peterson. And though this huge output has not always been fit for the top drawer, with many of the Canadian-born pianist's records either too safe or too mainstream, there is no doubting his ability to swing. The recent reissue of two early-Seventies albums, Reunion Blues and Great Connection, under the title Swing Cooperations (MPS) makes the point very clearly. The first set sees the sparkling keyboard man accompanied by regular rhythm pals, drummer Louis Hayes and bassist Ray Brown, and sparring with the great vibes player Milt Jackson, while the second - a simple trio date - sees Brown give way to another Peterson stalwart, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. Though the affair starts with an almost unrecognisable take on the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction", and the highlight is probably Jackson's "Reunion Blues" itself, this is delightful stuff throughout.

Slightly more demanding is the latest effort from Charlie Haden. Recorded in 1989 at the Montreal jazz festival but only now released by Verve, The Montreal Tapes sees the hugely experienced bass player accompanied by exciting Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Bill Evans's former drummer, Paul Motian, on six lengthy workouts. As is to be expected of a live recording, there are plenty of sustained solos, especially from the leader, but the set is well-paced and there is much to inspire - with Haden compositions, such as "Bay City" and "Silence" standing comparison with Ornette Coleman's "The Blessing" and Miles Davis's "Solar".

Few, however, can compare with Mississippi Fred McDowell, the extraordinary country blues guitarist who, despite rarely straying far from his farm, has had a huge effect on the development and appreciation of the idiom. Rounder Records has just released a CD of his first recordings - called simply that - as the latest stage in its project to put onto CD the whole of Alan Lomax's extensive archive of blues and folk recordings. Whether playing alone or with a small group, McDowell is on these nearly 40-year- old recordings, as with the vast majority of his material, simply sensational.