I Get the Message, Volume 1: The Genius of Oscar Pettiford
Oscar Pettiford was only 37 when he died mysteriously in 1960, but during his couple of decades in the spotlight he contributed significantly to the language of the bass and defined the possibilities of the cello in jazz. His smoothly constructed lines and technical and theoretical innovations made him a star from the big-band era into bebop, and won him gigs with a long line of greats ranging from Ellington to Gillespie, Monk and Rollins. Yet Pettiford remains an underrecognized figure, the reason why Chicago-based bassist Richie Pardo has cut this tribute session.
Like Pettiford, Pardo favors a clearly delineated bass that both holds down the bottom and investigates outside of it. On the oft-recorded “Tricrotism” and “Swingin’ Til the Girls Come Home,” Pardo and his crew—violinist Mark Feldman, tenorist Ron Dewar, pianist Jeremy Kahn and drummer Bill “Bugs” Cochran—jump right in, getting frisky and drawing tight circles around one another before busting out swinging. “Bohemia After Dark,” meanwhile, serves as a vehicle for a full-bodied Pardo solo that allows him extra exploratory time, and “OP’s ID,” the album’s sole original composition, offers hints as to where Pettiford might have headed if his life weren’t cut tragically short.
Pardo is never slavish in his homages to his hero; rather, he puts his own contemporary stamp on the material throughout. Nor does he leave any doubt that he’s a take-charge kind of guy; not content for a minute to play a supporting role, he’s a smart enough leader to know what he’s got in these musicians and to allow them their own say in these lovingly rendered interpretations.