Chasin' Oscar: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson Reviewed in The New York City Jazz Record
Chasin’ Oscar is a most unusual tribute. Guitarist Michael Blum is the lead voice in the group, completed by bassist Jim Stinnett and drummer Dom Moio. A melodic and boppish player, Blum performs Peterson’s “Nightingale”, songs from the pianist’s repertoire (“I Loves You Porgy”, “You Look Good To Me” and “The Girl From Ipanema”) and an impressive transcription of Peterson’s recording of “Tristeza” plus four other songs not in direct tribute to Peterson. Pianist Brad Smith is only on a few numbers.
Blum’s playing (other than on “Tristeza”) does not sound that similar to Peterson’s so subtitling his set “A Tribute To Oscar Peterson” was probably a mistake. In fact, his rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema” has the group sounding closer to that of the George Shearing Quintet. One should largely forget the Peterson connection and simply enjoy Blum’s distinctive chord voicings, close interplay with Stinnett (whom he considers his mentor and most important teacher) and relaxed phrasing.
Of the additional four songs, Blum takes pleasing vocals on “East Of The Sun” and “Tenderly” (an early hit for Peterson) and debuts a pair of Stinnett originals (“Pine” and “Whisper”), both vehicles for lyrical modern jazz. This is an impressive outing for the young guitarist on only his third CD as a leader.