Summer jazz concert series starts at LSU _lowres

Photo provided by the LSU School of Music -- The LSU Hot Summer Nights Quartet will pay tribute to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson with the free concert, 'The Will to Swing with Willis Delony and Friends.'

Duke Ellington called Oscar Peterson the “Maharaja of the keyboard.” Willis Delony calls him inspiration.

And it’s time for him to pay tribute to his inspiration.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I knew I shouldn’t wait any longer,” said Delony, a professor of jazz studies at LSU. “And we’ll be doing more of these programs in the future.”

These programs will focus on other iconic jazz artists, but the LSU School of Music Recital Hall will be saturated in Oscar Peterson’s music on Wednesday.

Delony, at the piano, will be joined by fellow Hot Summer Nights Quartet members Bill Grimes on bass, Troy Davis on drums and Brian Shaw on trumpet in this celebratory mix of a reproduction and lots of improvisation in the free concert, “The Will to Swing with Willis Delony and Friends.”

“I’m doing a note-for-note reproduction of Oscar Peterson’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose,’ ” Delony said. “It’s difficult, but it’s exciting at the same time. But this isn’t a concert where we produce every song note-for-note. We’re going to provide snapshots that recall the style and spirit of his music.”

Delony was in high school when the album, “The Oscar Peterson Trio: Live in Russia,” changed his musical direction. He was already playing piano, but he knew he had to play piano like that — like Peterson.

Now he will.

“I’ll not only play his music but talk to the audience about Oscar Peterson,” Delony said. “It’s important to tell the audience how he had the hardest swing of all in jazz — he taught us how powerful the groove can be.”

Peterson, a Canadian, had a career which included 200 recordings and eight Grammy Awards, among other honors. He’s credited with redefining the jazz trio by elevating the musicianship to make each member as powerful as the next.

“There was nothing he couldn’t do on the piano,” Delony said. “He transcended the groove, and there are musicians who modeled their playing on his.”

The quartet will perform 11 Peterson tunes, featuring Shaw in the role of jazz trumpeter Clark Terry. Peterson didn’t regularly feature brass players in his recordings, but when he did, it was Terry, who established his legend as a bebop trumpeter.

“Bill and Troy will play the whole program,” Delony said. “Without them, I couldn’t pull this concert off. There’s going to be a lot to enjoy in this program, both for us and the audience. It’s hard work, but we’re having a great time.”