Lois Deloatch's Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson | Record Review | Indy Week
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Lois Deloatch's Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson 

(Improv Media)

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Though renowned pianist and jazz leader Oscar Peterson lies at the heart of Lois Deloatch's fourth record, she covers a lot of territory on her way to that center. Judging from the breadth of song choices—from the top of the album's traditional "Down by the Riverside" to its closing with a re-examination of "Auld Lang Syne"—she shows interest not just in the American songbook, but more specifically in the river of song embedded in African-American life. She moves from the spirituals forward to their place in the blues, modern gospel and, of course, jazz.

Deloatch's roots come from singing at church as a girl, so her approach to jazz is a soulful one, connected to Ella Fitzgerald's crisp style and, as she dips into her lower register, blues singers. As the record jumps genres, it never forsakes the consistent tone of her singing. Though some of these tunes are well-worn classics, she owns them here.

Taking on a tribute to one of your iconic inspirations is one thing, landing one of his drummers—master of the brushes Ed Thigpen, in this case—and adding old school Chicago legend Willie Pickens on piano to help you make that tribute record, well, that's just a rare feat. Accomplished local bassist and jazz educator John Brown provides the low-end anchor, with Scott Sawyer on guitar and additional piano by Tyson Rogers. Deloatch adds her own lyrics to two Peterson numbers: The title cut is a powerful rallying cry for peace and equality, the lyrics set in a preacher's language akin to the Rev. King's. "When Summer Comes" rings with the same longing as Peterson's original, showcasing Deloatch's strong contralto and her confidence in fulfilling that difficult role of a brassy but heartfelt jazz singer.

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