“On a Clear Day” (the Chris Peterman Quintet at Discover Jazz)

Last night the annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival began. I’d actually somehow forgotten which day it was when I approached Church Street in search of a light dinner and heard a cacophony of sound – at least three different bands playing outdoors within a couple of blocks of each other.

There are the big names over at the Flynn – Branford Marsalis, John Scofield, Bobby McFerrin, among plenty of others – but then there is also jazz everywhere else around the center of town for the next 10 days, much of it outdoors. I sat outside Das Bierhaus the rest of the evening listening to the Chris Peterman Quintet, who were superb. They are (or at least were at this particular gig): Chris Peterman on saxes, John Rivers on bass, Caleb Bronz on drums, Matt Wright on vocals, and Tom Cleary on piano. Chris I’d never properly heard before and he was brilliant: I loved the fluidity of his playing, the long melodic arches to his solos, effortless inventiveness. Matt – also new to me – shone in some adventurous scat singing, and the rhythm section as usual played with spot-on precision and clarity.

As for Tom, I took a jazz improv class with him a few years ago and always look forward to hearing him. His playing is stylistically versatile and virtuosic, above all always immaculately musical whatever he’s playing – in part stemming from a deep study of jazz history (a journal he’s recently begun exploring musical questions within jazz is here). I was hoping to link to some really amazing samples of what he can do from the CD Frame Problem, a release by Fragile Zoe, but haven’t found anything online as of yet (and am unable to upload my own audio files until I upgrade to self-hosting – hopefully soon). Fragile Zoe are a jazz-funk fusion band consisting of several members of the University of Vermont faculty (Tom and John, and Patricia Julien on flute), along with Patricia’s husband Alec on guitar, and Caleb from last night’s group also.

One tune from last night was “On a Clear Day” (written by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner), which I hadn’t heard in a long time. I’d forgotten what a great song it is. The band played it uptempo and its soaring openness really brightened up the overcast Burlington night sky. Afterward I asked Tom for a recommendation of a recording, and one which he mentioned was Oscar Peterson’s (below). As always when I hear this man, I can’t help laughing from time to time at the level of seemingly effortless virtuosity on display – and check out how his left hand joins the party at 2:26 here… Always fiercely swinging too – I dare you to listen to this with stationery feet…

But then I wanted to find a vocal recording of it and there were fewer choices on YouTube than I expected. Most of these are from Barbra Streisand, each a little different, and then there is one from Shirley Bassey too. In general I find a wee bit too much belting out of this song, which doesn’t feel right to me. The lyrics here are kind of stupendous and don’t need exaggerated force to communicate themselves. At the end, sure, some crescendo, though to my taste not as much as I’m mostly hearing in these recordings. The following – the actual 45 single from way back when – builds too quickly I think, and has the usual triumphalist kind of interpretation. But that hushed opening is pure magic.

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you’ll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star
You’ll feel part of
Every mountain, sea and shore,
You can hear from far and near
A world you’ve never never heard before

And on a clear day
On a clear day
You can see forever, and ever, and ever more.

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