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Oscar Peterson closes Bowl season

The veteran pianist's lyrical side is featured on bill with Clark Terry and Dianne Reeves.

August 29, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

The summer jazz season at the Hollywood Bowl concluded Wednesday in a program featuring one of the surviving greats of the '50s (and beyond), pianist Oscar Peterson.

Coupled with an opening act featuring singer Dianne Reeves and her trio, joined by trumpeter Clark Terry and bassist John Clayton, that would seem to have been an effective remedy for the uneven nature of the venue's prior jazz events.

And indeed there were moments when imaginative performances underscored the music's magical qualities in a fashion that had only rarely taken place this season. One of the best was a segment in which Terry, Clayton and Reeves teamed for entertaining renderings of "Squeeze Me" and "Brotherhood of Man."

Terry, 82, displayed obvious physical infirmities, but both his playing and his characteristically witty scat vocals were a joy, especially during the affectionate, high-spirited exchanges with Reeves on "Squeeze Me."

Reeves opened the evening, accompanied by pianist Peter Martin, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Greg Hutchinson, concentrating on standards. A brisk "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" was followed a soaringly lyrical "Skylark." Reeves is blessed with abundant musical skills, but she was at her best during those too-rare moments when she set aside her melodic swoops and swirls in favor of warm, communicative, musical storytelling.

Peterson's set had more enigmatic qualities. He has not been the fiery, two-handed virtuoso of his early years since he suffered a stroke a decade ago that weakened his left hand. But in tunes such as "Satin Doll" and "Back Yard Blues," Peterson, 78, occasionally offered vigorously hyperactive right-hand lines powerful enough to create the illusion of full-out, two-handed playing.

A fairly substantial portion of the set, however, was devoted to slower, more lyrical efforts, displaying a Peterson who clearly seems to be moving into a more pastoral, contemplative period.

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