Oscar Peterson Trio – West Side Story (1962)

frontcover1West Side Story is a 1962 studio album by the Oscar Peterson and his trio.

The album featured seven interpretations of songs that had featured in the recent film, West Side Story.

Oscar Peterson discography is so immense that it’s difficult to sort through the entries. If you’re looking for a first purchase, “West Side Story” is a good pick, particularly if you are a fan of the original broadway or film soundtrack. Piano playing seemed to come so easily for Peterson that at times on records I’ve had the feeling he’s going through the paces. When he is at his best, though, he swings clean and hard and demonstrates he knows a tune inside and out. That is the case throughout this release. And he’s not afraid to turn some of the tunes in different directions. For example, he steps up the tempo on “Tonight,” a potentially risky move on an extremely romantic song, but the move works as Peterson, backed up by Ray Brown’s steady bass and Ed Thigpen’s tasteful drums, never falters. On the other hand, the pianist does not shy away from the lyricism of concertposter“Somewhere,” accenting the theme with ornate chording that mines the yearning and sadness that is at the heart of “West Side Story.” And he finds a relaxed, loping gait on “Jet Song,” a pace that for me captures the cheerful arrogance of the play’s street gang. Interpretations of “West Side Story” have been attempted before, most notably Dave Liebman’s more experimental effort a few years back. For me, Peterson’s approach is the more successful of the two in that I think he came closer to finding the pulse of the original work. This is a good addition to the mainstream section of your jazz piano collection. (hyperbolium)

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. The romp through “I Feel Pretty” is full of humor, while the CD closes with a brief reprise of several themes from the musical to wrap the session with a flourish.(by Ken Dryden)

oscarpetersontrio1962

Personnel:
Ray Brown (bass)
Oscar Peterson (piano)
Ed Thigpen (drums)

backcover
Tracklist:
01. Something’s Coming 3.56
02. Somewhere 5.36
03. Jet Song 7.49
04. Tonight 4.36
05. Maria 4.55
06. I Feel Pretty 4.29
07. Reprise 4.18

Music by Leonard Bernstein + Stephen Sondheim

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