Oscar Peterson, the Montreal-born pianist, known for his blistering technique, yet serene touch on the keyboard lived from 1925 to 2008. Through his life, he passed through eras of jazz music that were legendary.. stories traverse from jamming in old ladies’ attics with the also miraculous Art Tatum from midnight to 7am, filling the whole place with magical music, to travelling the United States with legends like Charlie Parker and Benny Carter to spread the music. His career lasted decades upon decades, and considering that even masters like Joe Pass would remark that, playing with him, he wouldn’t even name the tune the band would play, he’d just start off an intro and hit the ground at 100 mph, he really was a master.
Yet he was also nice as well. Ever listen to the interview he gave with Dick Cavett? His sweetness is on full display— extremely conversational and light-spirited in sharing his (remarkably simple?) musical philosophies. His perfect time at points like 0:37 makes metronomes seem totally unnecessary. The moment he lays down that left hand, it’s 110% locked in,
Youtubing some of his other videos like Eight Bar Boogie Blues and the like display just awesome jazz-shredding.. I wonder what Dimebag Darrell would think? I bet he’d like it.
But that’s really not all there is to Oscar, of course, being so multi-faceted. And for a lifetime of really living it, playing music as a pro from the 1940s all the way to the 2000s, you’d better be multi-faceted.. by the way, his trios with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis or Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen are just things of beauty.. but getting back to the multi-faceted bit, for a career to last that long, you’d need depth and true heart. And that’s what he had. Fast forwarding to 1984, there’s a concert of OP where he plays just a magnificent medley.. it’s of Round Midnight, pensive and intimate, as if he’s sharing a deep meaning with you, a close friend.. then it moves on to Waltz for Debby, honestly expressing his heartfelt love for someone perhaps— one of those moments where it’s maybe easier for a shy person to express his or herself via music than with words.. and finally, just an absolutely wonderful, gentle, and dreamy closer.. a nameless tune where he breaks out of the broken time of the initial two numbers and locks into that steady, rock-a-bye feel, easing you into a state of relaxation akin to floating a million miles above reality in a colorful sea of clouds.. just so great. Instead of going to the hot tub to relax, or having a steak dinner, or going for a drive, just putting this next recording on and waiting for 4:42 to hit does the trick and more.
And like masters, just flipping through his work you find gems in the most unbeknownst corners, just showing that full-fledged, vacuumed under each couch (not just vacuuming around the couch but actually moving it and vacuuming fully underneath) type of career. And really, all the masters are like that aren’t they? Those long career masters? Like Fahey and Derek Trucks. For some reason it makes me think of fractals.. just so detailed, even adding beautiful content on rare recordings that no one might ever hear.