Oscar Peterson – Plays The Jimmy McHugh Song Book

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  • This superb Oscar Peterson album boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The piano has heft, the drums are big, and everything is relaxed and natural – this copy is doing pretty much what we want a top quality ’50s Peterson album to do
  • Songs you know well – I’m In The Mood For Love; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, etc.
  • The last in the “Oscar Peterson Plays” series – Oscar puts his sublime touches to these timeless Jimmy McHugh classics
  • “[Peterson’s] sound was consistently classy and first rate here, as it was for his entire career… impeccable taste and technique and the best songs out there…”

This original Verve pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 Peterson, 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 the best sides of this outstanding 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 1959
  • 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 Plays The Jimmy McHugh Song Book

  • 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, guitars 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 would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

You’re A Sweetheart
Lost In A Fog
I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
Diga Diga Doo
I Feel A Song Comin’ On

Side Two

I’m In The Mood For Love
When My Sugar Walks Down The Street
Don’t Blame Me
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
Can’t Get Out Of This Mood
I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night

The “Oscar Peterson Plays…” Series

Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) was just starting what turned out to be terrific career in 1951 when jazz impresario extraordinaire Norman Granz took him into the studio to record Plays Cole Porter (Clef Records, 1952). Granz had a grand plan: To have this then-promising jazz pianist record a number of albums under the Oscar Peterson Plays tag, each an immersion into a separate Great American Songbook tunesmith. It started with Cole Porter and ran through George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Vincent Youman, Harry Warren, Harold Arlen and Jimmy McHugh—ten albums in all, over a three year period. The idea was a marketing ploy that worked to perfection; it worked so well, in fact, that Granz started the same ball rolling in 1959 with another set—nine albums this time—embracing the same theme. This later series was called The Songbooks, released on his Granz’ Verve Records label, covering mostly the same songwriters.

Peterson, born in 1925, was in his mid-to-late twenties at the time these tracks were laid down. His sound was consistently classy and first rate here, as it was for his entire career. This three year, ten album project certainly brought his profile—at that early stage in the career game—up to the next level. Smart marketing combined with impeccable taste and technique and the best songs out there can do that…

The trio is in consistently excellent form here, so picking a favorite of these jewels will probably depend on personal preference for a favorite among the songwriters involved. Certainly the Cole Porter set will have its adherents—the disc starts with a peak on that most-covered of Great American Songbook tunes, “What Is This Thing Called Love?,” that levels off in a high plateau with “Begin The Beguine” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Others will go for the George Gershwin or the Duke Ellington sets, or any of the others. These featured songwriters are the greatest contributors to greatness of American music, their tunes interpreted by one of the finest pianists of all time…

-Dan McClenaghan, http://www.allaboutjazz.com

Oscar Peterson Bio

Oscar Peterson was one of the greatest piano players of all time. A pianist with phenomenal technique on the level of his idol, Art Tatum, Peterson’s speed, dexterity, and ability to swing at any tempo were amazing. Very effective in small groups, jam sessions, and in accompanying singers, O.P. was at his absolute best when performing unaccompanied solos. His original style did not fall into any specific idiom. Like Erroll Garner and George Shearing, Peterson’s distinctive playing formed during the mid- to late ’40s and fell somewhere between swing and bop. Peterson was criticized through the years because he used so many notes, didn’t evolve much since the 1950s, and recorded a remarkable number of albums. Perhaps it is because critics ran out of favorable adjectives to use early in his career; certainly it can be said that Peterson played 100 notes when other pianists might have used ten, but all 100 usually fit, and there is nothing wrong with showing off technique when it serves the music. As with Johnny Hodges and Thelonious Monk, to name two, Peterson spent his career growing within his style rather than making any major changes once his approach was set, certainly an acceptable way to handle one’s career. Because he was Norman Granz’s favorite pianist (along with Tatum) and the producer tended to record some of his artists excessively, Peterson made an incredible number of albums. Not all are essential, and a few are routine, but the great majority are quite excellent, and there are dozens of classics.

Peterson started classical piano lessons when he was six and developed quickly. After winning a talent show at 14, he began starring on a weekly radio show in Montreal. Peterson picked up early experience as a teenager playing with Johnny Holmes’ Orchestra. From 1945-1949, he recorded 32 selections for Victor in Montreal. Those trio performances find Peterson displaying a love for boogie-woogie, which he would soon discard, and the swing style of Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole. His technique was quite brilliant even at that early stage, and although he had not yet been touched by the influence of bop, he was already a very impressive player. Granz discovered Peterson in 1949 and soon presented him as a surprise guest at a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert. Peterson was recorded in 1950 on a series of duets with either Ray Brown or Major Holley on bass; his version of “Tenderly” became a hit. Peterson’s talents were quite obvious, and he became a household name in 1952 when he formed a trio with guitarist Barney Kessel and Brown. Kessel tired of the road and was replaced by Herb Ellis the following year. The Peterson-Ellis-Brown trio, which often toured with JATP, was one of jazz’s great combos from 1953-1958. Their complex yet swinging arrangements were competitive — Ellis and Brown were always trying to outwit and push the pianist — and consistently exciting. In 1958, when Ellis left the band, it was decided that no other guitarist could fill in so well, and he was replaced (after a brief stint by Gene Gammage) by drummer Ed Thigpen. In contrast to the earlier group, the Peterson-Brown-Thigpen trio (which lasted until 1965) found the pianist easily the dominant soloist. Later versions of the group featured drummers Louis Hayes (1965-1966), Bobby Durham (1967-1970), Ray Price (1970), and bassists Sam Jones (1966-1970) and George Mraz (1970).

With Respect to Nat In 1960, Peterson established the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, which lasted for three years. He made his first recorded set of unaccompanied piano solos in 1968 (strange that Granz had not thought of it) during his highly rated series of MPS recordings. With the formation of the Pablo label by Granz in 1972, Peterson was often teamed with guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels Pedersen. He appeared on dozens of all-star records, made five duet albums with top trumpeters (Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Clark Terry, and Jon Faddis), and teamed up with Count Basie on several two-piano dates. An underrated composer, Peterson wrote and recorded the impressive “Canadiana Suite” in 1964 and has occasionally performed originals in the years since. Although always thought of as a masterful acoustic pianist, Peterson has also recorded on electric piano (particularly some of his own works), organ on rare occasions, and even clavichord for an odd duet date with Joe Pass. One of his rare vocal sessions in 1965, With Respect to Nat, reveals that Peterson’s singing voice was nearly identical to Nat King Cole’s. A two-day reunion with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown in 1990 (which also included Bobby Durham) resulted in four CDs. Peterson was felled by a serious stroke in 1993 that knocked him out of action for two years. He gradually returned to the scene, however, although with a weakened left hand. Even when he wasn’t 100 percent, Peterson was a classic improviser, one of the finest musicians that jazz has ever produced. The pianist appeared on an enormous number of records through the years. As a leader, he has recorded for Victor, Granz’s Clef and Verve labels (1950-1964), MPS, Mercury, Limelight, Pablo, and Telarc.