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In the effusive and engaging booklet note for this CD, pianist and conductor Andrew Litton recalls a time when he had never heard of Oscar Peterson. For IP readers in a similar position, Canadian-born Peterson (1925-2007) was classically trained but became a top jazz pianist and a prolific recording artist. Peterson reportedly practised for between four and six hours a day – and it paid off: his astonishing improvisations have long since been a subject of envy and imitation.

This CD contains faithful performances of 12 Peterson improvisations, all originals rather than trio performances (with bass and drums). Lulu’s Back in Town makes for an exhilarating opening. Further tunes – such as Basin Street Blues and Over the Rainbow – are nearly buried in cascading figures, capering arpeggios and rich (often remarkably low-pitched) harmonies. Handel would probably have loved them – and Liszt, for certain.

What does Litton offer that the original Peterson recordings do not? Probable answer: these elaborate pieces are practically concert etudes and deserve re-creation as such. Litton’s playing is remarkable – you wonder how such a busy conductor found time to practise – and the whole disc is a delight. He acknowledges the help of colleagues including Steven Osborne, who painstakingly transcribed several pieces simply by repeated listening. Would-be performers wishing to programme them should note (and copy) the booklet’s extensive credits, including publisher and lyricist: a laborious business, but a legal requirement ignored at your peril.

MICHAEL ROUND Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing