Oscar Peterson Trio – The Trio – Live From Chicago

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The Trio – Live From Chicago (2018)

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

Peterson really puts on a great show. He’s made an awful lot of records during his career and most of them aren’t especially noteworthy. This album is clearly an exception to that rule. (“If You Could See Me Now” is another one.)

This pressing was a huge step up from the other copies we played in our recent shootout. This copy has the immediacy that puts you front and center at The London House for a great jazz show. Ray Brown is incredible on the bass.

What the best sides of this original pressing 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 1961
  • 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 studio space

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 qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.  

The Piano

If you have big, full-range speakers one of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano is WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead, the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

This is what good live recordings tend to do well. There isn’t time to mess with the sound. Often the mix is live, so messing around after the fact is just not an option. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies.

But a few — a very few — copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected from Verve. This is one.

Verve

Boy, these old Verve pressings are sure all over the map. If there’s one jazz label that gets an F for consistency, it’s Verve. And they typically get an F (or at best a D) for mastering as well, since good sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost on record without causing serious problems.)

Lucky for you, dear reader, we found a few copies with the presence and transparency that really let this live jazz album transport you back in time to a small club in Chicago in the ’60s. (Some of the talking patrons won’t even shut up for the likes of Oscar Peterson!)

As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies get all those elements to balance beautifully.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I’ve Never Been in Love Before 
Wee Small Hours 
Chicago

Side Two

The Night We Called It a Day 
Sometimes I’m Happy
Whisper Not 
Billy Boy

AMG  Review

“…the pianist was generally in peak form during this era. He sticks to standards on this live [album] (a good example of the Trio’s playing), stretching out “Sometimes I’m Happy” creatively for over 11 minutes and uplifting such songs as “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Chicago” and “The Night We Called It a Day.”