The double whammy for Peterson on this recording from his MPS era is the combination of material and Ogerman’s sugary-sinister orchestral arrangements. From the start, Oscar sounds constrained by the shortness of the pop material, reduced to little more than picking out the simple melodies with his right hand before Ogerman’s pedestrian orchestral interventions.
Only Jobim’s “Wave” – running at six minutes, allows any scope for Peterson’s more characteristic flurries and technique to come through. Count Basie trashed the Beatles’ music with a whole album of tasteless interpretations; Peterson and Ogerman manage this in just two tracks. “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby” get the breezy bossa-nova treatment here, showing complete contempt for the sentiment of the original songs. By this stage, Peterson seems determined to break free of the Ogerman straitjacket, ramming both songs full of twiddles and runs that are laughably inappropriate for the mood and content of the original material.
But the biggest chuckle is saved for the end – a raucous, blowsy version of Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe”, which manages to sound like a Lalo Schifrin television theme. Overall, Motions & Emotions is a fascinating example of that period in the late 60s when jazz tried to get down with the kids, and failed horribly.
Sally’s Tomato; Sunny; By the Time I Get to Phoenix; Wandering; This Guy’s in Love With You; Wave; Dreamsville; Yesterday; Eleanor Rigby; Ode to Billy Joe (36.26)
Peterson (p); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Bobby Durham (d) Claus Ogerman (arr, cond). Villingen and New York 1969.