Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Jazz Soul of Oscar Peterson

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

I’m not sure why, but the piano artistry of Oscar Peterson, particularly the one on display in his Verve recording – The Jazz Soul of Oscar Peterson – conjures up flights of fancy in my mind while listening to it.

His version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Con Alma [which translates to “with soul”] has always seemed to bring imagery of wild animals into focus so I thought it might be fun to develop a video montage of animals in the wild using his interpretation of this tune as a soundtrack.

After many years with guitarists Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis, Oscar had decided to bring in Ed Thigpen on drums and Edmund’s brilliant playing in all facets of the drum kit added different coloring and sonorities to the trio’s music.

Here’s more about Oscar and his career in a brief piece about him by Gene Lees, one of Oscar’s closest friends and a fellow Canadian, as excerpted from Jazz Lives: A 100 Portraits in Jazz [with photographs by John Reeves].

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson

© -Gene Lees, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Hank Jones has said, "Oscar Peterson is head and shoulders above any pianist alive today. Oscar is at the apex. He is the crowning ruler of all the pianists in the jazz world. No question about it." Andre Previn says emphatically, "He is the best!  When I surveyed seventy pianists on the subject of jazz piano, the close winners in the categories of personal favorite and "best" pianist were Art Tatum, Bill Evans, and Oscar Peterson. Oscar was Bill's favor­ite pianist. He is Roger Kellaway's favorite pianist. Dizzy Gillespie cites him as one of his favorite pianists to play with. Critic Leonard Feather said that if he were to be reincarnated, he would want to come back as Oscar Peterson.

Peterson is the son of a Montreal rail­way porter and former ship's bos'n who taught music to his five children. One of them was his daughter Daisy, who then became Oscar's teacher. Oscar went on to study with Paul de Marky, a Hungarian pianist who had studied in Budapest with Istvan Toman, whose teacher in turn was Franz Liszt. Oscar was already well known in Canada when he burst on the rest of the world in 1949 during a Jazz at the Phil­harmonic concert at Carnegie Hall. Since then, he has been at the pinnacle of jazz piano, a virtuoso whose playing has roots in the bravura of Liszt.

Oscar has led trios since the early 1950s, played solo recitals all over the world, explored the world of electronic music, and worked extensively with young peo­ple. Now he dedicates himself more and more to composition. Oscar suffered the slings and snubs of outrageous racism in Montreal in his youth. This has led him to take a staunch public stand against racism in Canada and elsewhere. In 1973 he was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada, and afterwards told me almost shyly, "I never thought my country would honor me this way.” It continues to do so. In 1991 he was appointed Chancellor of York University in Toronto and received a Toronto Arts Award for lifetime musical achievement. At my last count he had ten honorary doctorates in music.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments here. Thank you.