The Dean Stockdale Quartet pay tribute to Oscar Peterson

Dean Stockdale is a highly regarded jazz pianist, arranger and composer based in the North of England. He is known for his sensitive, swinging style and regularly appears around the UK with his trio and with some of the best names in UK jazz. His biggest influences in jazz are the piano styles of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Gene Harris, Mulgrew Miller and Erroll Garner.

The paragraph above is taken from Dean’s own website and while I have seen and heard him play in the trio setting, for Celebrating Oscar he leads a quartet featuring guitarist Tim Williams, a player I am not familiar with. What we get is twelve Oscar Peterson numbers (either written by him or with arrangements of standards by him) re-arranged and styled by Dean. As the tunes will familiar to many who might be reading this blog I will not be breaking the album down in to individual tracks but, instead, I will present an overview on what I heard.

From the swinging blues of ‘Blues Etude’ to gospel style of ‘Hymn To Freedom’ the listener is treated to some excellent quartet playing from this band. I am more familiar with Dean playing in a trio setting but the introduction of Tim Williams on guitar gives Deans sound profile another dynamic that works very well. Both players lead very strongly and are backed the excellent rhythm work from bass player Gavin Barras (who featured on Dean’s 2017 album release Origin) and drummer Gaz Hughes.

The standout track on Celebrating Oscar is, for me, ‘Nigerian Marketplace’, which encapsulates all that this line-up is about: very good leads on the tunes’ melody, wonderful interaction between piano and guitar, a strong bass line that does not get lost in the mix, and terrific use of drum patterns in support of the leads. I also like the arc of this tune as its sound develops across the track’s length. As good as ‘Nigerian Marketplace’ is, ‘Have You Met Miss Jones’ also stands out, and that is down to the wonderful arrangement of this very well known number – highlighting Deans skills as an arranger.

‘Hogtown Blues’ (check out the video at the end of this post) gives another fine example of Dean’s style of play. There is an economy of note selection and even when he does make use of a run or trill it is not overplayed, florid in sound. On this album this approach to the music is matched by Gavin Barras on guitar. ‘Nightrain’ (a Jimmy Forrest number) is the title track to Oscar Peterson’s 1963 album release and is another very well-known, and well-covered tune that Dean manages to make his own through his own very good arrangement.

Dean is aided by a trio of musicians who understand where he is coming from and whose playing complements Dean’s own style and non more so than guitarist Tim Williams. Celebrating Oscar would have been a good trio album, but the addition of the guitar really does elevate the production to another level and I really hope I get the opportunity to hear this band live.

Tribute albums are, I think, difficult to pull off successfully but that is exactly what Dean Stockdale has managed to achieve with the right selection of material, played in a good running order by musicians who know their craft and how to put the music across without it sounding like a copy band – and that is largely down to the arranger’s skill and understanding of the source material.

For tour dates Celebrating Oscar click on this link the album is released Friday, 12th May. The album may be purchased through Bandcamp as a CD or digital download.

Musicians: Dean Stockdale – piano; Tim Williams – guitar; Gavin Barras – bass; Gaz Hughes – drums.

Tracklist: 1. Blues Etude. 2. Falling in Love With Love. 3. Bossa Beguine. 4. Nigerian Marketplace. 5. Have You Met Miss Jones. 6. Hogtown Blues. 7. Land Of The Misty Giants. 8 Wheatland. 9. When Summer Comes. 10. Noreen’s Nocturne. 11. Nightrain. 12. Hymn To Freedom.


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