Oscar Peterson
Night Train


5.0
classic

Review

by Keelan H. EMERITUS
January 18th, 2009 | 12 replies


Release Date: 1963 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Simply put, classy.

The main thing that people don’t “get” about jazz is the improvisation. Especially when present to the current generation, people are just daunted by a ten minute jazz pieces that is essentially a main theme and then a solo that takes variations on that theme or chord progression. There was a time when jazz was ‘the’ style of music, back during the golden age of the genre, but today’s hook happy listeners just don’t get it. With the risk of sounding better-than-thou, I feel I should mention that I too am a hook happy listener, I just happen to appreciate jazz more then the average person nowadays. Now, if I were to introduce another fellow listener who was uneducated in the art of jazz, there are only a few personalities I would look to first. Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Billie Holiday, or even perhaps Duke Ellington would all be near the top of my list. The very first artist I would show to said viewer though? None other then famed Montreal piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson.

What better album to start off with then his trio’s classic Night Train? The trio consisting of Peterson at the piano, Ray Brown on the bass and Ed Thigpen on the drums. Brown contributes a nice rhythm section and turns in a few good solos, Thigpen is meat and potatoes in his role, generally keeping time with a few classy fills. Both men play their parts very well, and suit the music, but everyone knows the real star is Peterson. One of the best traditional jazz pianists (if not the best, though Monk fans might argue otherwise), Peterson plays gracefully and with incredible speed. Take “C-Jam Blues” for instance, the standard jazz piece features a great solo full of difficult runs and plenty of ornamentals to make the piece sparkle. His playing is great throughout the entire album, but importantly, it remains restrained. This is why Oscar Peterson would be the first jazz artist I would look to when introducing someone to the genre. He has the talent to make incredibly difficult music, but he has the tremendous ability to keep his pieces rooted in an accessible melody.

Take for example, “The Honeydripper” with it’s locomotive bass clef and twinkling right hand arpeggios make for a catchy hook. This immediately draws the average listener into the music, giving them something they can identify with, before amazing them with the technical prowess of Peterson. Of course, using such familiar standards as the previously mentioned “C-Jam Blues” or “Georgia On My Mind” does help. Still, with enough listens, the audience will be just as familiar with other songs such as the slow burning “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” or the smooth styling of “Band Call”. There isn’t a bad song on the album, in fact there isn’t even an average song, they are all good. One stands slightly above the rest though, and this is the beautifully stirring “Hymn to Freedom”. The slow moving piece begins with just Peterson, until the rest of the trio joins to back him in his solo (ironic, I know). The solo crescendoes into a rousing cadenza that rolls through a variation on the main theme. The piece is absolutely breathtaking, and I must disclose that it is quite possibly my favorite jazz piece of all time.

Night Train is pure class, through and through. It takes the accessible elements from traditional jazz and molds them with the virtuoso playing abilities and soloing of free jazz. It’s a marriage that allows Oscar Peterson to showcase both his ear for great melodies and his blistering pace across the keys. This is an album that you can through on at an intimate dinner party, or you can sit and listen to and pick apart the complex parts. This is the main factor that makes the album such a great one. So, I hope next time someone comes up to you and says, “hey I’m trying to get into jazz, do you know where I should start?” you will know the answer to this question. Oscar Peterson. Night Train.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
thebhoy
Emeritus
January 18th 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I realize this is the second 5 rated review in a row. I don't normally just hand out 5 ratings, but this and the James Ehnes album deserve it.

Bitterandthensome
January 18th 2009


13 Comments


Nice to see Oscar Peterson getting some love, he actually does deserve it. The review was a nice read too, short and sweet. Can you tell me what bands Buddy Rich played in?

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 18th 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The Buddy Rich Big Band. That was pretty much it I believe, he was always pretty much a band leader, which is interesting seeing as he is a drummer.

ohcleverhansyou
January 18th 2009


885 Comments


Get rid of that first paragraph. I don't care how little jazz there is on Sputnikmusic, there's enough that you don't have to explain
"what it's all about."

Sorry, I'll go on to read the rest of your review now.

The review's good otherwise. I'm much, much more partial to Peterson than Monk myself. You describe his playing well. I need
more Peterson though, I should get this CD.This Message Edited On 01.18.09

tombits
January 18th 2009


3471 Comments


Leave the first paragraph, it's good. Awesome review, this might have to be my first dabble into jazz.

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 18th 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ohcleverhans you, the first paragraph wasn't aimed at the sputnik community. It was a general statement, which was used to introduce my main point about the album. It actually isn't even critical of other people? I was merely stating a fact, generally what turns most people off about jazz is the improv, whether they realize it or not.This Message Edited On 01.18.09

ohcleverhansyou
January 18th 2009


885 Comments


I understand why you did it. My point is that the review does not have to provide such a general statement on the entire genre of jazz. And I think you covered throughout the rest of the review why Peterson might appeal to a non-hardcore jazz fan, which I believe was what you meant to say in the opening paragraph.

Spare
January 19th 2009


5322 Comments


thebhoy

you are the only person who has ever heard this album

ever

ever ever

will checkitout

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 19th 2009


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

perhaps my intro is too broad. I might consider changing it, just not right now cause I'm off to school.

231090
January 14th 2011


20 Comments


The review is nice and the rating is spot on. Good job

liledman
January 14th 2011


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yet another under-appreciated review from keelan...

thebhoy
Emeritus
January 14th 2011


4461 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

that staff tag looks real purdy up there



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