on March 3, 2008
In my very own Jazz Dictionary, the definition of genius reads:
genius\'jé-nyes\proper noun: Oscar Peterson, Pianist, August 15, 1925 - December 23, 2007
Oscar Peterson died of a kidney failure at his home in Mississauga, Toronto on December 23, 2007. I'm deeply saddened and my heart goes out to his family, and my prayers as well. May his soul rest in peace.
Alex Barris' "A Musical Biography" is a well-crafted and informative biographical sketch of a legend of jazz piano, Oscar Peterson, who had inspired and influenced lot of great artists in the jazz scene. It is a very interesting read for any Peterson fan and I can strongly recommend it. The author is also a broadcaster at Canada's CBC-TV and Radio, and has written several books to his credit, and he's a member of the Order of Canada. And for those who are in doubt about the accuracy of every little thing that is written in this book, please read on . . .
On The Author's Credibility:
"Alex Barris replays the life and career of Oscar Peterson like Oscar plays the piano; deftly, fluidly and with unexpected, fascinating riffs. The master of the jazz keyboard is well served; so is the reader." ~ Sid Adilman, The Toronto Star ~
"Alex Barris negotiates the tricky issue of writing about someone he admires with earnest grace. The many quotes and anecdotes aren't window-dressing; they amplify Barris' plain-spoken prose as he explores Oscar Peterson, the musician and the man." ~ Katie Malloch, CBC's Jazz Beat ~
"Oscar Peterson is my hero. I've read good books about him before, but the insightful and delightful Alex Barris has, of course, nailed it. He's been there the whole time, watching Oscar happen. This is the one." ~ Tommy Banks , Jazz Musician ~
For someone who started piano lessons at an early age, he was classically trained but his first love was jazz piano. He rose to fame by his own merits - his adeptness at the ivories, his creativity in improvising, his love for beautiful music, and his dedication to his craft. All these made him a truly remarkable jazz legend of all-time and a genius of jazz piano. Here are some of the notable quotes from this book as quoted from his fellow artists, producers and musicians who greatly admired him.
"I have believed for many years that Oscar Peterson is not only the greatest pianist in jazz today, but the greatest it has ever known." ~ Gene Lees ~
"Oscar Peterson is my favorite all-around pianist. There are pianists I like because of one thing and pianists I like because of another. But overall, I like Oscar Peterson best." ~ Carmen McRae ~
"It has always been Oscar Peterson. He is my Rachmaninoff." ~ Shirley Horn ~
"I wish I could play with his right hand." ~ Charlie Parker ~
"Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard." ~ Count Basie ~
"One should leave the piano when Oscar comes in. This man is dangerous." ~ Marian McPartland ~
Oscar Peterson is the world's definitive pianist . . . he is the Joe Louis of the piano." ~ Herb Ellis ~
"You're somebody that they just can't ignore. Not only jazz players pay you tribute, but classical players, too." ~ Duke Ellington to Oscar Peterson ~
"Peterson is surely the most articulate, all-consuming pianist since the late great Art Tatum, his undisputed idol. He is an artist not to be underestimated or missed." ~ Benny Green ~
"Get up from the piano ... Oscar is in the house. Who wants to be at the piano when Oscar is there? Find something else to do." ~ Benny Carter ~
"Oscar Peterson is the greatest living influence on jazz pianists today." ~ Herbie Hancock ~
"He's one of the few pianists who is representation of a whole symphony in texture when he performs solo." ~ Norman Granz ~
And here's an interesting anecdote . . .
Norman Granz gave Count Basie a watch and later bought it for $1,500 when Basie died and gave it to Oscar Peterson, who was so grateful saying . . . "Having Basie's watch means a lot to me."
And this is one remarkable and my favorite quote from one of the greatest jazz legends of all-time . . .
"I believe in using the entire piano as a single instrument, capable of expressing every possible musical idea. I have no one style. I play as I feel."
There's more to this book than just the quotes above that you'll find very interesting, some are never-heard-before, unpublished stories about some of his painful experiences in the early stages of his fruitful career. But nonetheless, Mr. Peterson took everything in stride, remained calmed and ultimately became not only victorious but prestigious as well. The fame and recognition he earned, not to mention the numerous honors and awards afforded to him worldwide, are unprecedented and unmatched, like his one-of-a-kind piano artistry. It's unparalleled and beyond compare.
I don't think there will be another Oscar Peterson in the making. Do you?