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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Piano Lessons With The Maharaja of the Keyboard

He’s as pleasant and avuncular as a Mountie. He was born in Canada, after all. He practiced six hours a day until he could play like that. Everyone thinks there’s some other approach that will work.

His geniality masks what appears to me to be genius. Prodigious guided intellect with a view around a corner. He understands the essence of what scores of other estimable performers were doing, and can execute them on a whim. But he’s not a mimic. He understands it, then uses it.

I can’t recall a piano player that had all that firepower at his disposal that still played eminently accessible music with it. He never forgot to entertain the audience. Even when he wasn’t playing the piano.

Oscar Peterson

7 Responses

  1. A remarkable man, Sip.
    Oscar Peterson, as towering a musical and personal presence as he was, never forgot a kindness. One Christmas in the late eighties, when his arthritis was particularly bad, I got a call from his son, Norman, a buddy of mine. We piled into Oscar's van and headed to Costco, where we loaded up a handful of their huge carts with blankets, clothing, food and toys which we crammed into the van before heading for the storage facility at the local Salvation Army headquarters to unload it.
    One Christmas, when he was a boy in Montreal, Oscar's father – who was a porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway – got bumped from his shift, thereby losing vital pay packets at Christmas. The day before Christmas, the Sally Ann, alerted by some of the family's neighbours, showed up at the Peterson's door with some food and some small presents for the family. He never forgot that, and always took some time out for them, especially at Christmas.
    A genius, yes. But, a grateful one.

  2. Amazing player, thanks for the great clip! Your comment reminds me of a few weeks ago, when I had my old Fender Jag tuned up by Norick Renson (famous luthier in LA). I was telling him how, after over 40 frustrating years, it only recently occurred to me that, in order to learn how to play the darn thing, you actually have to practice. "You're wrong," quoth the Yoda of 6 strings, "You don't HAVE to practice, you GET to practice."

  3. Sam –

    Peterson's like a humanized Art Tatum, who's stage presence was intimidating more than inviting. Tatum also had prodigious chops – Petersen learned a thing or two from him – but he couldn't "turn it off" and didn't much like adapting his style to other players. He played piano like Art Tatum played piano and that's that.

    Fats Waller, maybe, if you could get him alone and he stopped mugging.

  4. I recall reading in one of his bios that Ted Williams was an Oscar Peterson fan, and that Ted and Oscar had held a conversation back stage of some club.

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