Oscar Peterson Trio – West Side Story – His Best Recording? We Think So

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West Side Story

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

I’ve known this was a well-recorded album since I first heard the DCC gold CD back in the ’90s.

It sounded great to me at the time — I had nothing to compare it to — but it sure didn’t sound like this! This album is clearly one of the best jazz piano recordings I’ve ever played. In its own way it’s every bit as good as that other landmark recording, The Three, from 1975.

Both belong in any right thinking audiophile’s jazz collection. Both are phenomenal Demo Discs on the best pressings.

The Right Sound from the Get Go

Side starts out with a solid, full-bodied piano and snare drum, a sure sign of great sound to come. This side was richer and fuller than all the other copies we played. That rich tonality is key to getting the music to work. It keeps all the instrumental elements in balance. The natural top on this side is just more evidence that the mastering and pressing are top drawer. Great space and immediacy, powerful driving energy — this side could not be beat.

And side two was every bit as good! The sound was jumpin’ out of the speakers. There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course).

Ray Brown’s bass is huge, probably bigger than it would be in real life, but I can live with that. Once again, with this kind of extended top end, the space of the studio and harmonics of the instruments are reproduced brilliantly.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Something’s Coming 
Somewhere 
Jet Song

Side Two

Tonight 
Maria 
I Feel Pretty
Reprise

AMG  Review

West Side Story was a bit of an unusual session for several reasons. First, the popularity of both the Broadway musical and the film version that followed meant that there were many records being made of its music. Second, rather than woodshed on the selections prior to entering the studio, the Oscar Peterson Trio spontaneously created impressions of the musical’s themes on the spot. “Something’s Coming” seems like a series of vignettes, constantly shifting its mood, as if moving from one scene to the next. Ray Brown plays arco bass behind Peterson in the lovely “Somewhere,” while the feeling to “Jet Song” is very hip in the trio’s hands. The snappy interplay between the musicians in the brisk setting of “Tonight” turns it into a swinger. “Maria” initially has a light, dreamy quality, though it evolves into a solid groove.