The Hollywood Bowl’s 2003 jazz series could have been subtitled “Many Roads to Jazz,” leaning this way and that, roaming through a lot of stylistic territory and occasionally veering off the map altogether. The final program brought the journey back home to the mainstream, with two of jazz’s surviving lions in winter, Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry, flashing some of their old trademarks.
It’s possible Peterson has publicly played more notes over his long career than any other jazz pianist, and at 78, he still puts in a full 78-minute set with his veteran expert quartet. There were, on this given evening, a few errors, yet Peterson is still capable of spilling forth one inventive, brilliant chorus after another in an uninterrupted flood on tunes like “Wheatland.”
Although slowed by illness at 82, there is still a twinkle in the eye of Terry, who as he was escorted onto the stage managed to perform a few impish dance steps to the vamp of Dianne Reeves’ rhythm section.
In fact, Terry managed to wake up Reeves’ opening set. On her own, despite some imposing singing on “A Little Moonlight” and a nicely sustained “Skylark,” she seemed a bit predictable and settled. Then Terry came on, playing with muted trumpet sparingly on “Mood Indigo.”
The two performed an exquisite vocal duet on “Just Squeeze Me,” with Terry scatting a bit in his swinging “Mumbles” persona, kibitzing with Reeves in a throwback to the Ella Fitzgerald-Louis Armstrong teaming.
After guest John Clayton paid emotional homage to the late Ray Brown with “My Funny Valentine” — on Brown’s double bass — Reeves scatted the tune of “The Brotherhood of Man” and Terry found the pocket and dug in, his slippery sense of swing intact.
Alas, Peterson and Terry chose not to perform together; it would have been fun to have heard, say, a bit of their hit “Mumbles.” But more importantly, they’re still around to remind us that yes, jazz giants still walk the Earth.