Sunday, 13 June 2010

Sunday Morning Coffee with Oscar Peterson


Another surprise choice this week, not because Oscar is unworthy of the feature, but because I had someone else pencilled in.  I had to drop the original choice because the further into the preparation I went the less convinced was I of the rightness of the choice.

Fortunately on Thursday I was reminded of Oscar, a quick listen and he slipped into the vacant slot.  Unfortunately I’ve had less time than is optimal for the show but, hopefully, Oscar’s qualities overcome these difficulties.

“Virtuoso jazz pianist”, “one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time”, I heard in the past about Oscar but other than seeing him many years ago on the BBC I had never listened to his music.  How fortunate for me that I found the clip of Peterson and Count Basie which I used on Thursday’s “Music in the Morning”.

Enough of this, let’s get the music going but …. only when you have your coffee and are sitting down.

Back Home in Indiana

if you didn’t know of Oscar before you do now!  This is no ordinary pianist, this is extraordinary!


The first two sentences of Wikipedia’s entry are,

“ Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, "O.P." by his friends, and was a member of jazz royalty.”

The following sentence says so much about him – again from Wikipedia,

“At age nine Peterson played piano with control that impressed professional musicians. For many years his piano studies included four to six hours of practice daily.  [my emphasis] Only in his later years did he decrease his daily practice to just one or two hours.”


Falling in Love with Love  

with Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass) and Martin Drew (drums)

The bass player Oscar rated very  very highly.  I heard Oscar describe many players as “playing the bass” whereas “Niels was the bass”.


On my first few viewings of each video I was entranced by the music obviously but I was distracted by the sheer visual spectacle of the playing.  Only now when I listen with my eyes closed am I really hearing the music.  The effect is magical.  You may want to try this.



A Blues Duet                                           with  Ray Charles

I didn’t know that Ray Charles played a mean piano!  Both clearly loved this ….. as did I!


The Wikipedia entry says that some criticised Peterson for not being an innovator, for finding his niche and staying there.  I don’t care whether this is right or wrong.  Even I can see and hear his fabulous technique.  That’s what matters to me.


We move on with a different tempo and again with Niels on bass and Martin on drums as they play a tune made famous by Duke Ellington.

Take the “A” Train

with Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass) and Martin Drew (drums)

The video stops abruptly before the end of the piece but I was so taken by this that it had go into the show.

Again I have just listened with my eyes closed and I heard so much musical detail that has shown me jazz in a totally different light.


Following on in the same vein with my thoughts.  I have never appreciated jazz.  I never got jazz.  Jazz was for others.  I can’t say that I have been converted but I have learned that listening with my eyes closed helps as does listening to this as music and not specifically as jazz.  Without the label of jazz I can simply listen and love.


At this point last week I put in a short biography of Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull.  This week we have an interview with Dick Cavett in which Peterson demonstrates some playing techniques.  You may want to skip this but I found it very interesting.

Let me know if you thought it worthwhile putting this in  .… or not.


We start the second half of the show with a cakewalk!


with Joe Pass (guitar), Martin Drew (drums) and Dave Young (bass)

The first comment says,

“That's ridiculous, almost 8 whole minutes of nonstop piano shredding. Oscar Peterson blows my mind.”

and I wouldn’t disagree.  Enjoy!


Oscar’s solo from 6.00 to about 7.30 is one of my favourite sections of the whole show.  Absolutely brilliant.


As this show moves towards its close we play – or rather we listen to -  another high(ish) tempo piece.

Boogie Blues Etude 

with Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass) and Barney Kessel (guitar)

This was the first Peterson video I listened to for this show and I was …. knocked out.  Eight mins of ……  You can fill in your description.


Time’s going on in the show and for me to get this show finished in time and so I need to press on.  You don’t need to though.  You can relax – I hope you are -  with your coffee.

For our second last video we have a Peterson solo of unknown title.

Where this took me I don’t know but right after the show I’m going back again.


The end again ….. almost and to go out with we have Oscar, and his colleagues, playing at an unimaginable level or it would be if we couldn’t see them.


with Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass) and Martin Drew (drums)

We don’t get the start; I don’t know how far in we are but listen ….

OMG!   Out of this world.

This WAS the ONLY way to finish.


I have had my eyes, ears and heart opened by the music I’ve discovered!  Can my musical life ever be the same again?

Well, that’s it for another week.  I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.


  1. Good Morrow, Calum!

    Mr Peterson has my vote as the most talented keyboard banger ever, so I limit my ears to the time they may be exposed to such a rich treat.

  2. Thank you, MTG, and all the best wishes for a special Sunday.

    I hope and trust that you will return and return until you have finished the meal.

  3. if you didn’t know of Oscar before you do now! This is no ordinary pianist, this is extraordinary!

    If you like jazz, of course, which I do. Thanks, Calum.

  4. jazz has drifted back into my awareness recently so thank you once again. Did you not know that Ray Charles was such a fine piano player? Find a copy, if you can, of 'Ray Charles at Newport' 1958 it is electrifying.

    The 'Maharaja of the keyboard' may well have been a backhanded compliment given Peterson's florid style of playing.

    I still think Ellington is a better pianist, probably because I like a very different style of playing. See what you think-

  5. I'm not exactly a jazz person, but I'm an Oscar Peterson's fan since my youth. When I grew up, in Montreal, you couldn't be a serious piano student without hearing of his genius. Never attempting to jazz it up of course; my teacher nun wouldn't allow that! But certainly envying his dexterity, technical and rhythm prowess, and the looooong, nimble fingers. What I was told repeatedly about him, was Six hours at the piano, Claude! I could never manage that, of course. Which is why you might present to us Canadian classical Glenn Gould, one Sunday Morning, but never Claudia.

    Many thanks, Calum. It's a joy to drink my coffee watching Oscar (and friends). And also (rocking in my chair) to close my eyes, and let his extraordinary interpretation invade my room and my heart.

    I like the interview very much. I just wish I would have been able to question him myself. He had had a classical upbringing. You could see it in his fingers, and the right position of his hands on the keyboard. He would have been able to advise me on the problems I encountered attempting to play the very difficult Liszt.

  6. JD I've still to get a chance to listen in peace to Duke.

    James Didn't know you were into jazz.

    Claudia I thought you'd like Oscar. I'm pleased.

  7. good idea Claudia
    Glenn Gould - eccentric genius, I love the way he hums to himself when he is playing. He gets really carried away with the music. And so do I.

  8. JD - Glenn Gould was the other model presented to me by my teacher who knew him well. If you google Glenn Gould Bench Toronto, you'll see him, in bronze, wearing (as always) his beret and warm gloves, sitting in front of the CBC. I go sometimes, and sit besides him. I tell him, "I tried my best, Glenn, but I wasn't you, alas!" In a way, I'm glad.....Genius isn't an easy coat to wear!