Shelly Berg

Will: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson

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On his second CD project as a leader, pianist Shelly Berg fulfills a fantasy by utilizing Oscar Peterson's longtime rhythm section of bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen. He also lives by the adage "variety is the spice," utilizing different-sized ensembles, different soloists, mixed styles, and, like Peterson, big notes, and lots of them. Shelton G. Berg has quite a pedigree: born in Cleveland, raised and educated in Houston, past president of the International Association of Jazz Educators, jazz chair at USC as of 1999, much experience playing with singers (Carmen Bradford makes a cameo on The Will: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson, singing "I Hear Music") television and film music scoring, and more. He's a virtuosic player, no doubt, and like his hero Peterson, he can rip up a flurry of arpeggiated runs as easily as tinkling sweetly the very next moment. The program is split between six standards, some played with a bossa feel, two compositions by Peterson, and two by Berg. The best arrangement is on "Tenderly," phasing between modal and hard bop back and forth, with trombonist Bill Watrous lending a helping hand. Clarinetist Eddie Daniels is on three tracks, trumpeter Jeff Jarvis appears on a predicto-funk version of Frank Loesser's "Brotherhood of Man," and Watrous' big band is in for the title track. The remaining cuts are solo piano or trio pieces that more fully capture the essence of Berg's love for Peterson's rapid-fire style. So if you like smoking-gun piano with no prisoners and five or six flavors of jazz, this is a record you'll find interesting. It's perhaps a precursor to the ultimate project that Berg will one day document.

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