The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- An early Verve stereo pressing that is doing pretty much everything right, with superb Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom
- Rich, solid bass; you-are-there immediacy; energy and drive; instruments that are positively jumping out of the speakers - add it all up and you can see that this copy had the sound we were looking for
- Which wouldn't mean much if the music wasn't swingin,' but it is - every track shows just how good this trio was in 1962
- Credit engineer Bob Simpson, the man behind the legendary Belafonte at Carnegie Hall live recording from a couple of years before
- An absolute Must Own - for sound and music, this is our pick for The Best Oscar Peterson Album of All Time
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I've known this was a well-recorded album since I first heard the DCC gold CD back in the '90s. It sounded great to me at the time -- I had nothing to compare it to -- but it sure didn't sound like this.
In fact, Oscar Peterson's West Side Story is actually one of the best jazz piano recordings I've ever played. In its own way it's every bit as good as another killer piano trio recording we discovered many years ago, The Three.
Both belong in any right-thinking audiophile's jazz collection. Both are phenomenal Demo Discs on the best pressings.
The Right Sound from the Get Go
Side starts out with a solid, full-bodied piano and snare drum, a sure sign of great sound to come. This side was rich and full. That rich tonality is key to getting the music to work. It keeps all the instrumental elements in balance. The natural top on this side is just more evidence that the mastering and pressing are top drawer. Great space and immediacy, powerful driving energy -- this side was hard to beat.
And side two was every bit as good! The sound was jumpin' out of the speakers. Ray Brown's bass is huge, probably bigger than it would be in real life, but I can live with that. Once again, with this kind of extended top end, the space of the studio and harmonics of the instruments are reproduced brilliantly.
What The Best Sides Of West Side Story Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Verve in '62 - Hard to Beat
This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to "see" the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It's what vintage all analog recordings are known for -- this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What We're Listening For On West Side Story
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight, full-bodied bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The piano isn't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. It's front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put it.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Jazz Record
West Side Story is a recording that belongs in an serious Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Something's Coming
- Jet Song
- I Feel Pretty
West Side Story was a bit of an unusual session for several reasons. First, the popularity of both the Broadway musical and the film version that followed meant that there were many records being made of its music. Second, rather than woodshed on the selections prior to entering the studio, the Oscar Peterson Trio spontaneously created impressions of the musical's themes on the spot. "Something's Coming" seems like a series of vignettes, constantly shifting its mood, as if moving from one scene to the next. Ray Brown plays arco bass behind Peterson in the lovely "Somewhere," while the feeling to "Jet Song" is very hip in the trio's hands. The snappy interplay between the musicians in the brisk setting of "Tonight" turns it into a swinger. "Maria" initially has a light, dreamy quality, though it evolves into a solid groove.