Walking The Line – without Johnny – but with Oscar Peterson!

Happy New Year!

Let me start by wishing all of my readers an excellent and successful 2018!

Oscar Peterson has been one of my earliest Jazz influences, actually, he was on the first Jazz CD I ever bought around the age of 18 (The Oscar Peterson Trio Plays, from 1964, note that the first jazz album I ever bought was on vinyl just some weeks earlier, Keith Jarrett´s My Song). Before that, I thought that Jazz was annoying and chaotic, how wrong I was!

So you can see, my love of the piano trio format dates back many years.

I’ve written about Oscar Peterson three times previously, about two albums from his legendary trio with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen (Night Train and Plays The Cole Porter Songbook), but have also already mentioned his later work in Germany (Exclusively For My Friends) in my 25 Essential Jazz albums with several different bassist and drummers.

Walking The Line (MPS 1970)

The Oscar Peterson Trio Walking The Line Anniversary Edition Remastered 24 88 MPS 1970

Walking The Line is another album from the collaboration with MPS and the German producer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer.

With Peterson, we have George Mraz on bass and Ray Price on drums here. The change in personnel really doesn’t impact this album in any way, this is pure Peterson Swing!

Like with many Peterson albums, we do get some standards. The most famous songs here are Teach Me Tonight and All Of You, but the albums starting song from Cole Porter,  Love, you’ll probably also have heard before.

What you may not have heard as much (unless you are from France or you are big fan of the original Thomas Crown Affair) is Michel Legrand´s song The Windmills Of Your Mind.

Michel Legrand is one of the greatest song composers I’m aware of, all the way up there with the giants like Cole Porter. I’ve previously mentioned him in my review of Bill Evans You Must Believe In Spring. I’m very glad he gets featured here as well.

Overall, this is not a must have album, but if you like Peterson, you really won’t regret the purchase. To quote another famous song title, it don’t mean a thing if it ain´t got that swing. Well this album clearly does!

My rating: 4 stars

You’ll find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters)

 

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)