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Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson by Lois Deloatch

North Carolina vocalist/songwriter Lois DeLoatch uses her rich, expressive and supple voice to pay homage to Oscar Peterson with Hymn to Freedom, her fourth record as a leader. Recorded in 2006, this disc includes two Peterson originals, with lyrics by DeLoatch, and other music associated with that extraordinary pianist. Fortunately drummer Ed Thigpen was available. Some of Oscar's finest music, including "Hymn to Freedom," was recorded during the six years when his musical partners were Thigpen and Ray Brown. The versatile Chicago veteran Willie Pickens is the pianist.

African-American church music was an early influence on both DeLoatch and Peterson. The opener, "Down by the Riverside," is an emotional duet featuring bassist John Brown and DeLoatch. Her lyrics to "Moanin' (Prayer)" by Bobby Timmons will help you make it through the night. Oscar was known for his incredible technique but was the most sensitive of accompanists. This is echoed by Pickens as he backs up Deloatch's words to the beautiful Peterson piece, " When Summer Comes."

Oscar loved improvising on standard tunes and DeLoatch and the group perform several. Their romp through "Honeysuckle Rose" includes fluid guitar work by Scott Sawyer and tasty brush work by Thigpen. The Very Thought of You" is a gem as is DeLoatch's vocal on "Stardust."

Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom " was composed on the spot at his December 1962 Night Train session when Noman Granz wanted a really slow blues. In Peterson's words, "Since the tune had an almost church-like feel to it ..... I decided to call it "The Hymn to Freedom" - a musical salute to the brave and persevering leaders of the civil rights movement, and especially the Rev. Martin Luther King. " Hymn" is a powerful and inspiring anthem. DeLoatch's lyrics, her resounding voice and the band sound the note of triumph that the composition demands.

This impressive program ends with a contemplative treatment of "Auld Lang Syne" by DeLoatch and pianist Tyson Rogers, a welcome contrast to its usual New Year's Eve role.

I first heard Oscar Peterson play when we were both teenagers in Montreal. He passed away just before Christmas 2007. To borrow from Lois DeLoatch's lyrics to "When Summer Comes," he is one of those "friends departed, yet your heart clings to them still."

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Lois Deloatch
  • CD Title: Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Improv Media
  • Rating: Five Stars
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