Roger Kellaway acknowledges, “Oscar Peterson was an enormous influence on my life.” Kellaway had never before recorded in a trio with guitar and bass. Here he plays with guitarist Bruce Forman and bassist Dan Lutz, and the repertoire is mostly from Peterson’s 1950s recordings with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown.
Kellaway is a rare pianist with the technical command and historical knowledge to recreate a portion of Peterson’s “power, clarity, musicality, and will to swing,” all while sounding like himself. Kellaway’s two-handed stride on pieces like “Moten Swing” is real, but he breaks it up differently than Peterson would have done. The head of “Night Train” is like Peterson’s, but Kellaway’s tumbling, slightly jagged solo is his own. Kellaway’s arrangement for “Cotton Tail” configures three instruments into Peterson-esque layers of complexity, but allows them to discover even more convoluted relationships through collective improvisation.
One achievement of Heroes is that Kellaway, with his distinctive, aggressive touch and angular phrasing and far-reaching ideas, has yet evoked, on every one of the ten tracks, the large, looming, beneficent presence of Oscar. Another achievement is the work of engineer Drew Daniels, whose sound is as good as anything I have ever heard come out of a home studio.