on September 3, 2002
Oscar Peterson's "The Will to Swing" is a must-have for every jazz lover's CD collection, yet surprisingly few people seem to know about it (witness the lack of reviews here on Amazon.com!). I bought this a million years ago after having heard Peterson playing on the radio. A chronological compilation of Peterson performances from 1949 through 1971, this album showcases one of the all-time great jazz pianists. Peterson is quick, he's talented, he's definitely a master--but he's so relaxed and so affable that none of the performances come across as contrived or forced.
There are lots of songs here you'll recognize--"Fascinating Rhythm," "Tenderly," "I've Got a Crush On You" and more--but the gems tend to be those that aren't so familiar. Peterson weaves utter magic with the sparkling "9:20 Special" and effortlessly switches gears a few songs later with a hushed, yet assured performance of the minor-key "Whisper Not." No mood seems to escape his piercing intelligence, and he is clearly equally at home with both up-tempo and slower tunes.
Listen closely to Peterson's jittery, astonishingly quick rendition of Leonard Bernstein's great "West Side Story" tune "Something's Coming." Peterson captures all the teenage impatience and eagerness implicit in the music, then slows it down to look at the reflective side of the song. When he speeds things back up again, he beautifully conveys the can't-make-up-my-mind nature of Tony, the teenage boy character for whom the song was written.
Two Peterson compositions are particularly fine here. "Place St. Henri" and "Wheatland"--both written with a loving eye cast back to Peterson's native Canada--are spectacularly wonderful tunes. It's hard not to get up and dance to "Place St. Henri," on which Peterson swings with the greatest of ease. On "Wheatland," Peterson is in a mellower mood, and the reflective, undulating feel of the piano here aurally captures the way a field of wheat might look with a gentle breeze blowing over it. It's a lovely piece.
If you haven't already made room on your CD shelf for the work of the great Oscar Peterson, please do yourself the favor of buying this CD. It's well worth it and will become one of your favorites.
on November 26, 2007
This is great overview of Oscar Petersons career before his stroke, that sadly seems to be gone out of production now.
A mixture of 50's 60's and 70's recordings. Highlights include the appropriately titled "swingin' 'til the girls come home" with Herb Ellis on Guitar and Ray Brown on Bass. "C Jam Blues" the opening track from the famous Night Train album with Ed Thigpen on drums and Ray Brown on Bass and "A Child is born" and the ironically titled "A Little Jazz exercise" from the brilliant solo Piano album "Tracks". Also on the album is Petersons version of "Ill Wind", which was his tribute to his idle Art Tatum.
The set is a double CD with some interesting sleeve notes. I've been listening to it for 15 years now and I'm still not bored with it, and I've most of the original albums as well.