Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Night Train - Oscar Peterson Trio

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

In the third of three posts this January, we now turn to my vinyl collection and another look at trios. Inmy last post, I suggested that the “standard classical trio” consists of piano, violin and cello, however trios come in all shapes, be it the Brahms trio we featured last time, or as is the case today, the “standard jazz trio” combination of piano, bass and drums.

In jazz (as in all ensemble play, really) there are several types of trios. In addition to the piano/bass/drum trio, another type of jazz trio that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s is the organ trio, which is composed of a Hammond organ player, a drummer, and a third instrumentalist (either a saxophone player or an electric jazz guitarist). Other types of trios include the "drummer-less" trio, which consists of a piano player, a double bassist, and a horn (saxophone or trumpet) or guitar player; and the jazz trio with a horn player (saxophone or trumpet), double bass player, and a drummer. In the latter type of trio, the lack of a chordal instrument means that the horn player and the bassist have to imply the changing harmonies with their improvised lines.

Legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) redefined the jazz trio by bringing the musicianship of all three members to the highest level. The trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis was, in his own words, "the most stimulating" and productive setting. As Ellis was white, Peterson's trios were racially integrated, a controversial move at the time that was fraught with difficulties with segregationist whites and blacks.

All three musicians were equal contributors involved in a highly sophisticated improvisational interplay. When Ellis left the group in 1958, Peterson and Brown believed they could not adequately replace Ellis. Ellis was replaced by drummer Ed Thigpen in 1959. Brown and Thigpen worked with Peterson on his albums Night Train and Canadiana Suite. Brown and Thigpen left in 1965 and were replaced by bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes (and later, drummer Bobby Durham). 

In the 1970s Peterson formed another trio with guitarist Joe Pass and “the Great Dane” Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass. This trio emulated the success of the 1950s trio with Brown and Ellis, gave acclaimed performances at numerous festivals, and made best-selling recordings, most notably The Trio, which won the 1974 Grammy for Best Jazz Performance by a Group, and the 1978 double album recorded live in Paris.

For your listening pleasure, I chose to program the 1962-63 Verve release Night Train, which is considered one of Peterson's most commercially successful recordings. I think one of the reasons for that success was that it received very favourable air play at the time - the brief duration of many of the tracks was intentional as commercial radio stations were reluctant to play any tracks longer than a few minutes. The Penguin Guide to Jazz included it in its core collection, claiming "it's one of the best long-players of the period" and that Peterson's playing is "tight and uncharacteristically emotional".

Night Train includes stately covers of blues and R&B standards like "The Honeydripper," "C-Jam Blues," "Georgia on My Mind," "Bags' Groove," "Moten Swing," and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." 

(The YouTube video also includes six tracks recorded at the same session that weren’t released on the original vinyl LP, including "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Volare," as well as alternate takes of "Night Train" and "Moten Swing.")

Jimmy FORREST (1920-1980 )
Night Train (1951)

Edward Kennedy (“Duke”) ELLINGTON (1899-1974)
C Jam Blues (1942)

Hoagland Howard CARMICHAEL (1899-1981)
Georgia On My Mind (1930)

Milton JACKSON (1923-1999)
Bags' Groove (1952)

Bennie MOTEN (1894-1935)
Moten Swing (1932)

Melvin James (“Sy”) OLIVER (1910-1988)
James Oliver YOUNG (1912-1984)

Easy Does It (1940)

Joe LIGGINS (1915-1987)
Honey Dripper (1944)

Mercer Kennedy ELLINGTON (1919-1996)
Things Ain't What They Used To Be (1942)

Edward Kennedy (“Duke”) ELLINGTON 
I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) (1941)
Band Call (ca. 1954)

Oscar Emmanuel PETERSON (1925-2007)
Hymn To Freedom (1962)

Oscar Peterson - piano
Ray Brown - double bass
Ed Thigpen - drums

Recorded in Los Angeles, Calif., on December 15 & 16, 1962
Verve Records V6-8538

Thanks to Ted Wheel for posting this video.