Oscar Peterson’s Night Train

Oscar Peterson

I’ve written previously about Oscar Peterson twice already, mentioning his Exclusively For My Friends MPS box in my 25 Essential Jazz albums, and also reviewing Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Songbook. He is one of the three godfathers of the Piano Trio, together with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

Peterson to me represents the archetype of the Jazz Trio type 3 of my personal classification (see here), that I called  It Don’t Mean A Thing if It Aint’ Got that Swing. 

If we needed another example to illustrate this, let’s take this Verve album from 1963, which actually was the second or third Peterson album I ever bought.

Night Train (Verve 1963)

You get classic Oscar Peterson here. The legendary trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, and produced by Norman Granz, who played an important role in Peterson’s career.

Oscar Peterson Trio Night Train 24 96 Verve 1963

The title track, Night Train, is a good warm-up, but things really start grooving with the great C-Jam blues, uptempo blues at it’s best.

The ballad standard Georgia On My Mind is probably one of the best versions I own. Bag’s Grove is obviously taken from Miles Davis, and honestly, here I prefer the original, the horse are missing a bit. That said, Ray Brown’s soloing manages to keep this song interesting.

Easy Does It is another one of my personal favorites on this album, in spite of it’s apparent simplicity. And then there is the final track, Hymn to Freedom, where Oscar Peterson opens the melody, but the relaxed swing that follows when Brown and Thipgen kicks in, make this track truly memorably.

The only criticism I have with this album is that the tracks are all a bit short. The trio really excels on longer tracks when each of the brilliant musicians get’s more time to solo.

Little anecdote: Apparently Night Train was one of the albums that made Diana Krall wanting to play Jazz (see video below). And she plays it quite well, although I still prefer the original.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (HDtracks)