November 1998

Count Basie Meets Oscar Peterson - The Timekeepers
Originally Released: 1978
Remastered Released: 1998

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Ostensibly about the keeping of musical time, The Timekeepers has at its core a sense of musical exuberance, two masters of the keyboard domain jammin’. Although the pairing of Count Basie with Oscar Peterson may seem like a gimmick, The Timekeepers was Peterson’s and Basie’s fourth recording together, giving the two of them, disparate as they are, a sense of history that shows. The interplay of "Soft Winds," for instance, is that of two supple musical talents at play, pushing melody along like a big rock -- together, each taking his turn. Basie and Peterson open "Rent Party" without accompaniment, dropping in notes and giving the silence in between its due respect.

This JVC XRCD2 disc is clear and crisp, but without the hardness that plagues poorly mastered, and remastered, discs. The original recording was made in 1978, but this new reissue sounds thoroughly contemporary -- and audiophile-approved at that. My best guess is that Peterson and Basie inhabit the left and right channels respectively; their styles are usually easy to pick up on, but here they blend -- one’s disposition showing signs of the other’s. Louis Bellson on drums and John Heard on bass take the middle ground, and their playing, straight men to the stars, is integral to the overall effect of The Timekeepers. They often throw the pitches that Peterson and Basie go deep with.

The entire JVC XRCD series of remastered jazz classics is drool material, and this one is noteworthy for its lack of historical hoopla but high payoff in terms of simple enjoyment. The ‘70s aren’t known for great jazz, but JVC’s remastered version of The Timekeepers goes beyond its own time -- forward in its sound, and back in the dexterity of its performances -- to serve notice that two jazz giants can be better than one.