Desert Island Jazz
Jeff Oster (2011)

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(Photo by Jim Johnson)

You hear vocalist Jeff Oster for the first time, and you ask yourself where he came from, and whether you'd somehow not been paying attention: how could you have missed him? The answer is "easily!"

Born in San Francisco to a musical family, Jeff has not only been singing but also playing trumpet since he was aged eight, and played with several local bands. But it's probable that you missed him, not because you weren't paying attention, but because he took almost two decades off from music in order to raise his family, only recently returning to performing jazz.

Since then he has performed exclusively with the sextet of fellow trumpeter Peter Welker (on whom Jeff heaps huge credit, not only for getting him back behind the microphone again, but also for Peter's own abilities), and they've made two excellent recordings under the name The Oster-Welker Alliance, "Shining Hour" and "Detour Ahead", both on the Jazzed Media label.

Many trumpeters throughout jazz history have also sung—the list includes Louis Armstrong, Henry "Red" Allen, Bunny Berigan, Louis Prima, Roy Eldridge, Chet Baker, and Jack Sheldon—but few singers have played trumpet, and it's this, combined with a great voice, that makes Jeff so effective a vocalist. One thing he can do well that so many others—trumpeters included—should never do at all is to scat: as Jeff himself puts it, "I approach the melody and scatting as if I were playing it on the horn."

Jeff's influences come from all across the spectrum, from vocalists Mel Tormé, Jon Hendrix and Sarah Vaughan to instrumentalists John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Bill Evans and—to come full circle—Peter Welker.

Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 Cannonball Adderley At the Lighthouse Big "P" Capitol
# 2 Woody Herman Encore Days of Wine and Roses Philips
# 3 Benny Golson Benny Golson and the Philadelphians Stablemates Blue Note
# 4 John Coltrane Blue Trane Moment's Notice Blue Note
# 5 Tony Bennett and Bill Evans The Tony Bennett-Bill Evans Album But Beautiful Fantasy
# 6 Miles Davis Seven Steps to Heaven Basin Street Blues Columbia
# 7 Woody Herman Encore at Basin Street El Toro Grande Philips
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