Oscar Peterson: Motions & Emotions

The pianist's 1969 album covering the Beatles, Bacharach, Webb and others long predated the recent genuflection in jazz to contemporary pop


Perhaps taking his cue from Wes Montgomery’s cover of pop tunes A Day In The Life (A&M, 1967) this is Oscar Peterson at his most easy going, not that listening to the piano maestro could ever be described as difficult. With the addition of an orchestra with occasional reasonably meaty arrangements, there’s also a semblance of Tubby Hayes’ final album for a major label, The Orchestra (Fontana, 1970).

However good Peterson’s playing is (and it never disappoints here), the addition of the orchestra, the strings especially, might make some listeners yearn for a stripped-down version of the album on the lines of Paul McCartney’s de-Spectored Let It Be… Naked (Apple, 2003). That said, it’s hard not to be moved by the gently swinging version of Bacharach and David’s This Guy’s In Love With You.

On Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave, even the semi-schmaltzy strings can’t mar the elegance of the track, Peterson traversing the keyboard with customary ebullience and Bucky Pizzarelli’s acoustic guitar is (just) audible too. The strings juxtaposed with the piano are redolent of Dudley Moore’s compositions found on the soundtrack to Bedazzled (Decca, 1968) released a year before this one. Sometimes the strings do work well as with Lennon and McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby. There’s an atypical end to the album with a funky version of Bobby Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe, replete with exuberant brass perfectly complementing Peterson’s vibrant piano.

The reissue of Motions & Emotions is significant in that it signposts the very welcome news that MPS – now under the wing of Edel Music AG – is releasing a whole swathe of its back catalogue including albums by Ella Fitzgerald, Don Ellis, Freddie Hubbard, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, George Duke and many others.

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 (37.05)
Peterson (p); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Sam Jones (b); Bobby Durham (d); Claus Ogerman (cond). Villingen, Germany; New York (orchestra added), c. 1969.
MPS 0212830MSW