“I Want to be Happy” is the lead cut from this exceptional collection of eleven stunning examples of what can happen when true masters collaborate. (As usual, Herb Ellis, guitar and Ray Brown, acoustic bass fill out the Oscar Peterson trio.)
I give the five-star rating only when I believe something truly remarkable has been captured!
Peterson’s wily introduction sets the stage for a rendering that can’t fail to make performers and listeners alike realize the truth of the title. Properly announced, Stan Getz takes up the tune and bops it along beautifully—understated but pulsing all the way.
Ellis and Brown seamlessly interweave, becoming the "little engine that can"—respectfully remaining in the background yet relentlessly keeping the pace and energy moving forward. Only in the work of J.S. Bach (who had to write it all down!) is there comparable ebb and flow that cannot rest ’til the final double bar.
For several choruses, supported with just guitar and bass, Getz is left happily on his own, letting the tune evolve and lead him on a merry chase throughout the range of his marvellous tenor saxophone. Then—almost imperceptibly—the piano sneaks back, adding subtle comments and colour, waiting patiently for Getz to pass the torch.
Once taken, Peterson excels himself. His cascading right hand and more subdued left combine to push the music to its rhythmic edge—the beat just shy of being lost—but Ellis and Brown are never distracted and keep it all "just" on track. Peterson’s trademark "vocals" only add to the fun and show just how into this chart ALL of Oscar is!
Getz returns and floats his airy tone all over the melody, making us breathless in awe of his non-stop creativity, which further develops into an unscripted dialogue with the keyboard, which—in turn—prompts some timely interjections from the guitar. We realize that the sax’s clean, clear restatement signals the final foray into this Youmans/Caesar minor masterpiece, but—SURPRISE!—rather than fly away into the night, only now does Getz abruptly swing down and let this rendition walk to its conclusion.
We’re all happy too! JWR