Oscar Peterson Trio – West Side Story

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West Side Story

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  • A superb copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish 
  • Rich, solid bass; you-are-there immediacy; sound that’s just jumping out of the speakers, this copy had the sound we were looking for
  • Which wouldn’t mean much if the music wasn’t swingin,’ but it is – this could very well be the best record Oscar Peterson ever made
  • Credit engineer Bob Simpson, the man behind the legendary Belafonte at Carnegie Hall recording from a couple of years before
  • An absolute Must Own – for sound and music this is our pick for The Best Oscar Peterson album of All Time

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.

In fact, Oscar Peterson’s West Side Story is actually one of the best jazz piano recordings I’ve ever played. In its own way it’s every bit as good as another killer piano trio recording we discovered many years ago, The Three.

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 rich and full. 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 was hard to beat.

And side two was every bit as good! The sound was jumpin’ out of the speakers. 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.

Verve in ’62 – Hard to Beat

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of 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 the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all 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 amazing West Side Story sides such as these 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 1962
  • 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.

What We Listen For on West Side Story

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The instruments aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer — Bob Simpson in this case — worth his salt would put them.
  • 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, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

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.