Classic Album: Oscar Peterson-Motions and Emotions.

By 1969, forty-four year old Oscar Peterson was signed to the MPS label and was well on his way to becoming one of the greatest pianists in jazz history. The man who Duke Ellington called the Maharaja of the keyboard eventually won eight Grammy awards and released over 200 recordings. This included Motions and Emotions which was released in 1969 and is a reminder of Oscar Peterson at the peak of his considerable powers.

Just a year earlier, in 1968, Oscar Peterson had signed to MPS, and began a new chapter in a recording career that began in 1945. Since then,  he had already recorded over 100 albums.

Although Oscar Peterson had only signed to MPS in 1968, he had already released four albums. This included The Way I Really Play, My Favorite Instrument, Mellow Mood and Travelin’ On. They were all released to critical acclaim and were a  commercial success. These four albums set the bar high and Oscar Peterson was keen to begin work on a new album for MPS.

This was Motions and Emotions which was arranged and conducted by the vastly experienced Claus Ogerman. He had already worked with Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, Antônio Carlos Jobim and now Oscar Peterson on his new album Motions and Emotions.

Before recording of Motions and Emotions began, Oscar Peterson chose ten tracks including Henry Mancini’s Sally’s Tomato, Bobby Hebb’s Sunny, Jimmy Webb’s By the Time I Get To Phoenix, Gayle Caldwell’s Wandering and Bacharach and David’s This Guy’s In Love With You. They were joined by Antônio Carlos Jobim’s Wave, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston and Mancini’s Dreamsville, Lennon and McCartney’s Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe. These tracks eventually became Oscar Peterson’s album Motions and Emotions.

Joining pianist Oscar Peterson were the other two members of his trio drummer Bobby Durham and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. They were joined by arranger Claus Ogerman who conducted the orchestra, was  responsible for the orchestral arrangements and co-produced Motions and Emotions with Matthias Kunnecke. When these ten familiar tracks were recorded by Oscar Peterson they became Motions and Emotions.

Sally’s Tomato opens Motions and Emotions with Oscar Peterson’s fingers gliding across the keyboard as Claus Ogerman’s orchestral arrangement provides the perfect accompaniment. It’s a similar case on Sonny, which features another flawless performance from Oscar Peterson as he plays with speed and accuracy whilst transforming this familiar song. The tempo drops on a slow, sometimes spacious and wistful rendition of By The Time I Get To Phoenix, with strings augmenting the sense of longing and yearning in the Jimmy Webb’s lyrics. Wandering is akin to musical journey, while the cover of This Guy’s In Love With You is one of the finest recorded and is the perfect homage to Bacharach and David.

Strings add a wistful cinematic sound on Wave before Oscar Peterson’s piano enters. It takes centre stage and soon, the orchestra provide the perfect accompaniment to Oscar Peterson as he gives a virtuoso performance playing with speed and flamboyance. He then reinvents Dreamsville and then Yesterday with the addition of lush strings. Then Oscar Peterson toys with the introduction of Eleanor Rigby before a walking bass and cinematic strings accompany his brisk probing piano. Ode To Billie Joe closes Motions and Emotions and features rasping, growling horns as the tempo quickens and Oscar Peterson plays with speed, confidence and fluidity before the album closes on a dramatic high.

For anyone yet to discover the delights of Oscar Peterson and unsure where to begin Motions and Emotions is the perfect place to start. It was released in 1969 in the middle of a period where Oscar Peterson could do no wrong. By then, he had released just over a 100 albums and was regarded by critics as one of the greatest jazz pianists ever. Proof of that can be found on Motions and Emotions.

It features a series of virtuoso performances by Oscar Peterson that are variously cinematic, emotive, melancholy, uplifting and full of honesty. The music on Motions and Emotions is sure to stir the emotions, and tug at the heartstrings as Oscar Peterson and Claus Ogerman’s orchestral arrangement provide the perfect accompaniment. By then, Oscar Peterson was at the peak of his considerable powers as Motions and Emotions shows, as he interprets and reinterprets a mixture of classics and familiar songs. One flawless performance follows another on Motions and Emotions which is a reminder of one, if not the greatest jazz pianists at his very best, Oscar Peterson.

Classic Album: Oscar Peterson-Motions and Emotions.

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