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4.7 out of 5 stars
Night Train
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Though some have accused Peterson of being a bit "dry", don't let that keep you away from this absolutely essential album. Very few trio sessions possess a charm so carefree yet romantic, so swingin' yet calm, so rich yet simplistic. This is superb music-making. I recommend it to jazz-haters without reserve: it'll make you change your mind. Peterson serves up warm, passionate performances while the back-up is both muted and solid. I had a first edition LP which I found at a yard sale, bought the CD when it was first released and am happy to own this remastered effort. The purpose of a great remastering/reissue job is to bring out all the nuances of a recording and this rerelease does that and lots more. No CD collection should be without this classic recording. Worth every one of the five stars I've accorded it...
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55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Night Train is one of the best jazz piano albums I have yet to hear. Oscar Peterson is spellbinding -- both at breakneck and leisurely speeds -- and the ensemble is tight. Favorites here include Ellington's C-Jam Blues (only two notes!), The Honeydripper, Moten Swing, a definitive Band Call and of course a memorable rendition of the title track. I am a huge fan of Dave Brubeck, but one ride on the Night Train and it's obvious Peterson was something special. If you like exciting jazz piano -- this isn't background music -- Night Train is essential.
The bonus tracks? I don't like to complain about getting something for nothing, but it would not be hard to argue that the original album is a classic that needed no embellishment. Even with lesser songs, Peterson turns in a convincing performance and these pass muster. 'Now's the Time' is an amazing bit of keyboard athleticism -- a performance more worthy than the tune. 'This Could Be the Start of Something' is similarly a superior performance of a not-so-superior number.
The jury is still out on Verve's cardboard CD jackets. It looks nice but is destined to fall apart long before the CD fails. Perhaps Verve thought they were doing us a favor. Still a five-star album, but packaging is (a small) part of the equation.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Unlike many jazz piano lovers, I have never thought Oscar Peterson was showing off or playing too many notes, though I also love Count Basie, whose sparse playing goes in the opposite direction.
This album is wonderfully appealing and, could be a great place to start with Oscar if you aren't yet acquainted with his music.
I love every track [but only have the original CD], and appreciate the variety on the recording, from C Jam Blueswith its distinctive percussion and piano and double bass solos, to slow ballads like Hymn To Freedom and Things Ain't What They Used To Be through rollicking songs like Night Train and Moten Swing.
Another terrific album is Tracks, which is one of few solo recordings.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Peterson is considered one of the finest jazz pianists of all time, and this is his finest recording! With only three men in his group, he creates different emotions within a song. He is a true genius creating mood swings. And swing it does! Take the opening cut Night Train, near the end the mood is overcast and blue yet by the end of the song Peterson, Thigpen and Brown raise the mood to one of cool optimism. There is not one bad cut in this album. My other favorites are C Note Blues, Moten Swing and Call to Freedom. I first bought this album in 1963 and it has never grown old. Just buy it! You'll love it!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This is one of my most favourite jazz albums of all time. And this remastered version makes a perfect album even more perfect. With it's 6 bonus tracks, meticulous remastering and great packaging, this is a must-have for any jazz lover. Peterson truly is the best jazz pianist of all time, and this is one of his best recordings. The 12 page booklet includes photos of OP, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, as well as informative liner notes, including track-by-track notes. For me, the true highlight of this album is the wonderful "Hymn to Freedom" with its tremoloed, chorded climax that almost has you on your feet cheering. This album is much more than just a jazz album...it is a work of art.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2000
Format: Audio CD
The Oscar Peterson trio were really "on track" when they engineered this album! There isn't anything not to like! Oscar Peterson's jazz stylings clearly demonstrate his mastery of the piano and he proves to his listeners that he richly deserved his induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame.
This trio's playing is really tight and shines brilliantly whether they are really swinging or whether they're emoting on the smoother, slower numbers.
This is the perfect "gateway" album to introduce non-listeners to jazz or to introduce newcomers to Oscar Peterson. To say that this album will appeal to non-jazz listeners isn't meant to diminish it in any way. The skill and execution of these numbers by the trio will dazzle jazz afficionados as well. This CD makes it to my player regularly. I'd highly recommend this album to anyone without any reservations.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Truthfully, I own about 40 Oscar Peterson LPs and CDs, ranging from his duo (with Ray Brown) to his first trio (with Barney Kessel) to his next one (with Herb Ellis) to his first trio with drums (Ed Thigpen) to the next one (with Bobby Durham and Sam Jones) to his hard-swinging albums with Danish bassist Nils-Orsted Pederson to his latter-day performances, pre- and post-stroke. With the exception of the final recordings (sadly, Oscar was reduced to being a primarily one-handed piano player), you can't go wrong with any period, and it's a good idea to have, minimally, 5-6 recordings, each representing one of the aforementioned periods.

"Night Train" does not, despite its recurrent popularity, strike me as clearly rising above any of the others, but it's a good representation of Oscar with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. And it's enough to suggest Oscar's single-most contribution to jazz: swing.

No one could swing harder than Oscar. First, it was Basie who, beginning in the mid-1930s, took swing a notch above any other ensemble, large or small. But then with the appearance of pioneer bassist Jimmy Blanton in Ellington's 1940 band, eventually leading to the emergence of later players like Mingus, Pettiford, and Ray Brown, the walking-four swing beat of the big bands became refined and turbocharged to an unparalleled degree, until the quintessence of swing was realized by the chemistry generated by Oscar and Ray Brown. Swing became more than a style, or even a feeling. It was an irresistible physical force, capable of lifting the listener right out of his seat. Later rhythm sections were to follow--especially those of Gene Harris ("The Three Sounds"), Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Monty Alexander.

Which brings us to Oscar's surprising (shocking?) quote about Fred Astaire, after he had accompanied Fred on his later Songbook for Verve records. Oscar said that Fred had "bad time." It's a quote that has always puzzled me, even after hearing some uncomfortable moments during the Astaire recordings that Oscar had in mind. Astaire seems thrown off in his time, his phrasing. But then it occurred to me (partly as a result of my own experience as a piano player), that Fred was accustomed to a different time feel, a different 4/4, one that allows considerable lee-way between the beats of a 4/4 tune, a beat that "follows" the singer's phrasing and the conductor's baton. The swing feel, as perfected by Oscar, completely reverses priorities: there's absolutely no lee-way, no "forgiveness," in the beat, which is required to follow neither the singer's phrasing nor the conductor's baton. Quite the opposite is true: the singer (or any soloist) must follow the beat laid down by the rhythm section. The rhythm section, in fact, is the "power plant," and once it's put into motion, there's no interference with it. It's the singer's job to learn to phrase with its insistent, unrelenting, astringent demands--no slowing down or speeding up (with a few notable exceptions, such as the song's final cadence). As for the conductor, he's completely expendable--mere show. At best, he or she merely starts and stops the song.

Of course, there are many ways to "swing it." Bill Evans, for example, felt swing as a driving, swelling emotional power, coming from deep within his psyche--especially in the recordings made during the final 18 months of his life. But for most musicians and listeners, Oscar's is the kind of swing capable of moving an audience to delirium (and out of its seats). The key is to insist on an absolutely tight, unforgiving, locked-in, highly disciplined and practically militant synchronization between the bass player's note and the drummer's high-hat clap. There mustn't be the least amount of lag time ("lazy swing") or, the opposite, lunging "out of the pocket." Many players refuse to analyze or even talk about "time feel" and "swing." But by concentrating on the required synchronization, by working on it and practicing it, swing can be "learned." And after the strict, demanding hard work, the results will be heard in the final product: a flowing and free, spontaneous and unstoppable force, like a mountain stream driving its way through hard rock, capable moreover of levitating the music, the players, and its listeners.

Oscar was a polymath, a virtuoso, a technician of the highest order. So were a number of other pianists. But none of them could swing like Oscar.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Oscar just died a few days ago, and I've been listening to his stuff and remembering how legendary he was, and for how long.

This is maybe his finest outing (of dozens of fine outings). Every track sparkles with mastery, and the listener is enveloped by truly great musical intelligence. Hearing tunes played this well just makes you feel holy. Night Train is a genuinely evergreen jazz album, perhaps even one of the best. The man swings like Tarzan on jungle crank and takes you on one wild ride after another. Canadians wail too, eh.

I grew up in Toronto in the '60s and '70s, Oscar's adopted hometown, and many was the night my folks would come home from the Town Tavern with big big smiles after yet another session with OP at the keys. Man I wish I could go back there and sit by their side!

Those who say he plays too fast miss the point (Segovia, when asked why he played so fast, smiled and said, "Because I can"). When you are this insanely musical, sometimes you have so many ideas that they just show up at 110 miles an hour. Tatum was even faster, and it's impossible to not call him one of the other handful of jazz piano geniuses.

After the speed arguments etc are done, we are left with astonishingly beautiful music. Peterson's long-long-time bassist Brown never lets him down, and Thigpen is equally tight on the skins. But this album is all about OP, a true master of perhaps the greatest musical instrument of all, in perhaps the most demanding musical idiom of them all.

If Oscar never lived, we would have had to invent him.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This album is what accoustic jazz should be. With Ed thingpen and Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson had the perfect trio and a awesome sound. I would add that he attained such grace with the amazing guitarist Joe Pass too. It seems to me that there are at least two versions of this album. I keep listening to the version with the following last tracks : "Con Alma, Maidens of Cadiz, My Heart Stood still, Woody'n You". Ray Brown here is such a partner and his play on "Con Alma" is incredible. It seems that the choice of numbers and their order add to the greatness of the album. By the way, I wonder where they get all those superb alt. tracks from. What is remarkable is that M. Peterson can play the blues and "boogie woogie" uptempo style with equal talent. Oh! Enough superlatives ! Just get this gem. It won't leave your CD player.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
This is an impeccably constructed selection of favourites, performed with the delicacy of touch and inherent melodic sense that Peterson displays in his finest moments.
Is it possible to derive greater enjoyment from jazz than this? I ask myself this question every time I listen to this album. It's built like the great pop albums: at the end of each song, you immediately anticipate the start of the next, and experience gleeful pleasure when you hear that piano again.
The trio -one of the most celebrated piano trios in the history of the music- is tight, swinging, exquisitely balanced. Peterson's most personal moment on the album is perhaps the final "Hymn to Freedom". It is such a moving piece I'm often driven to playing it for its own sake, but nothing gives it greater emotional power than the music that precedes it. It's as if the whole album were recorded just to provide a context for "Hymn" to stand out in this way. A jubilant record is closed a with a pensive poem.
The record is dedicated to Peterson's father, a sleeping-car attendant on Canadian Pacific Railways.
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