Dimensions is an ideal title for this four-CD set, for few improvising artists’ careers have been more multidimensional than Oscar Peterson’s. The foremost inheritor of the great pianist Art Tatum’s mantle, Canadian native Peterson (b.1925) is still probably best known for his staggering virtuosity, as well as for leading two of jazz’s most scintillating trios—the one with guitarist Herb Ellis and bassist Ray Brown, a unit for 1953 to 1958, and the threesome that followed, featuring Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen, together from 1959 to 1965.
But Peterson’s deep-grooved work extended far beyond the boundaries of a three-man lineup. In 1950 he became a key member of Jazz At The Philharmonic, to which he returned over the years. The internationally popular all-star package tour was founded by close friend Norman Granz, the first important jazz impresario and, until his passing in 2001, Peterson’s manager and record producer.
Granz produced all of the music herein: 25 live performances from all over the world and 21 tracks done in the studio, made between 1953 and 1986. Although crowd-pleasing modern mainstream jazz and bebop were his métiers, Granz liked to present his major artists in many simpatico settings, from solo sessions to big band dates to all-out jams, with the accent on blues heads and the Great American Songbook. Dimensions offers exactly these elements, yielding a splendidly-selected microcosm of Peterson’s monumental career.
In the company of a mini-Who’s Who of Modern Mainstream and Bop, including Count Basie, the Duke Ellington Orchestra (sans the Duke), Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, and Joe Pass, Peterson repeatedly shows that he’s one of those rare players who makes everyone around him better.