Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle

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More Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle

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  • Peterson and Riddle’s 1963 collaboration finally arrives on the site with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • With a lively and present piano, and a smooth, full sounding orchestra, this is just the right sound for this music
  • “From the opening flutes to the last flush of piano and orchestra, this is smooth-swinging jazz par excellence.”
  • 4 stars: “… a quietly strong, rich, fully evocative set of great tracks that emphasize the undercurrent rather than the overflow of emotions.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These vintage Verve pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is, of course, a CD of this album, quite a few of them I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable couldn’t care less.

This vintage stereo pressing has the kind of Midrange Magic that modern records barely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it ain’t coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Oscar & Nelson, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage Analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle from 1963 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

What We’re Listening For on Oscar Peterson & Nelson Riddle

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the piano, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Val and Rafael Valentin in the case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Hi-Fidelity

What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

My Foolish Heart 
Judy 
‘Round Midnight 
Someday My Prince Will Come 
Come Sunday

Side Two

Nightingale 
My Ship 
A Sleeping Bee
Portrait Of Jenny 
Goodbye

AMG 4 Star Review

The Nelson Riddle Orchestra was always great enough to play music for film and television soundtracks, and accompany the greatest of stars, including Louis Jordan, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, among many others. For the band to back up the 1963 version of the Oscar Peterson trio with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen might have created some tension, with Peterson always wanting to cut loose and go over the top as opposed to the silky smooth sound Riddle favored.

Fortunately, Peterson strikes a balance between playing it cool and lettin’ ‘er rip on this collection of standards with the dinner hour in mind. Though not exclusively subtle and romantic, Riddle and Peterson strike a golden bipartisan compromise in rendering these well-known American popular songs into quietly burning embers of pure delight. It’s a predictable mix, but so warm and heartfelt that one has to commend the participants for allowing each other their own personal ideas without selling out.

Riddle’s contribution was to form a unique group, unfortunately, all unattributed, of ten cellos (no violins or violas), five horns, three flutes, a harp, and a percussion section. No one section dominates, which is the beauty of the famed arranger/composer/bandleader’s concept. Summarily, Peterson chooses to not clash with the instruments as he trades phrases while generally not playing along with them. This non-interruptive dialogue makes for communication that creates the best chemistry from a dynamic standpoint.

…. Again — this is not a soft and fuzzy overstrung effort dominated by cheese or cotton candy, but instead a quietly strong, rich, fully evocative set of great tracks that emphasize the undercurrent rather than the overflow of emotions. It is unusual in a starkly emotional sense of being, but the way all projects of this size and nature should be approached — with taste, class, and a healthy portion of restraint.

Engineering by Val Valentin

Val Valentin’s list of credits runs for days. Some high points are of course Ella and Louis, and Getz/Gilberto, two records that belong in any right-thinking audiophile’s collection.

We played a copy of We Get Requests by the Oscar Peterson Trio not long ago that blew our minds. And we have been big fans of Mel Tormé Swings Shubert Alley for more than a decade.

Pull up his credits on Allmusic. No one I am familiar with other than Rudy Van Gelder recorded more great jazz, and in our opinion Valentin’s recordings are quite a bit more natural sounding than Rudy’s, especially with regard to the sound of the piano