Oscar Peterson's Hello Herbie
Here’s a vivid display of the percussive effects that Herb Ellis wrested from the body of his guitar while playing with the Oscar Peterson Trio. He utilized the technique on several studio recordings with the trio, and here in 1958 on “A Gal in Calico.”
Today is Peterson’s 88th birthday anniversary. The pianist’s trio employed guitarists Irving Ashby and Barney Kessel before Ellis joined him in 1953, and he spent five years with Oscar and Ray Brown before departing in 1958 to work with Ella Fitzgerald. Peterson quickly despaired of finding an acceptable replacement, saying “Herbie spoiled me for all the rest,” so he re-tooled by adding drummer Ed Thigpen. It wasn’t until the mid-70’s when he worked regularly again with a guitarist in the trio that featured Joe Pass and the Danish bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen. As it happened, he discovered Pass when he went with Norman Granz to hear him playing duets with Ellis at Donte’s in North Hollywood.
In 1969, Peterson and Ellis reunited in Villingen, Germany for one of the superb sessions the pianist was making for MPS Records. "Hello, Herbie" was Oscar’s greeting for his beloved colleague, and it sufficed as the album’s title. Peterson was moved to write a short liner note in honor of the occasion, which he said “afforded me several pleasures, firstly and selfishly, the humane pleasure of being reunited with a person I really love.”
We’ll hear Peterson and Ellis recalling Herbie’s original model, Charlie Christian, in tonight’s Jazz a la Mode. Join me at 8 for "Seven Come Eleven," the Wes Montgomery original "Naptown Blues," and two by Jimmy McHugh,“Exactly Like You” and “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening." Wes's ode to his hometown was the session opener which epitomized what Oscar called the “immediate simpatico” he and trio mates Sam Jones and Bobby Durham felt with Herbie.
Here's a second look from a blog post of nearly two years ago at the jazz piano history lesson Oscar gave Dick Cavett.