OSCAR PETERSON - With Strings
Essential Jazz Classics EJC55696 (Two CD Set)
CD One tracks 1 to 12
In A Romantic Mood
Orchestra & Strings conducted by Russell Garcia
Recorded Los Angeles, 30 December 1955
CD One tracks 13 to 24
Orchestra & Strings conducted by Buddy Bregman
Recorded Los Angeles, March & July 1957
CD Two tracks 1 to 12
Buddy De Franko & Oscar Peterson play the George Gershwin Song Book
Recorded Los Angeles, 6 & 7 December 1954
Bonus Tracks CD Two tracks 13 to 16
Orchestra & Strings conducted by Howard Gibeling
Featuring Buddy Rich ( vocal ) & Oscar Peterson ( pno )
Recorded Los Angeles , 26 January 1955
Norman Granz over the years has recorded Oscar Peterson in a multitude of different settings from solo to big band situations but the recordings contained on this two CD set are a bridge too far.
The opening album, “In A Romantic Mood” finds Oscar with orchestra and strings conducted by Russell Garcia which comes over as Mantovani with a more than adequate pianist. The choice of material is beyond reproach but with heavy laden strings it does not give Oscar a fighting chance to shine. One of the better tracks is “Stars Fell On Alabama” when both Herb Ellis and Oscar when they have a little time to display what they are capable of doing but these chances are rare.
The second album on CD One, “Soft Sands” is an improvement with orchestra and strings conducted by Buddy Bregman, the strings are not as intrusive and spaces are left for the piano to come through. Oscar sings on four tracks in his Nat King Cole style which is not a deliberate ploy but is natural as his speaking voice and it must be said he was a great admirer of Cole’s piano style.
The strings on these tracks complement the piano rather than over whelm it particularly on “You Took Advantage of Me”.
On the final album on CD Two, “Buddy De Franco & Oscar Peterson Play the George Gershwin Song Book” Buddy De Franco does a little to improve the interest but the cloying strings under the baton of Russell Garcia does little to improve things.
Things liven up on an up tempo “Strike Up The Band” when Buddy and Oscar get a chance to strut their stuff.There are a couple of alternate takes on this album but do not really add much to the overall picture.
The four bonus tracks are a really a bonus which have Buddy Rich taking the vocal spot, like many musicians he is well able to carry a tune and has a fine musical voice and his phrasing is matchless.
This is really one for Oscar Peterson completists and is not a true reflection of his achievements. The extra star is for the Buddy Rich vocals.
Reviewed by Roy Booth