Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Cool Guy from Montréal

You know, television used to be kind of fun to watch? I just ran across this clip of Dick Cavett interviewing Oscar Peterson and it is informative, funny, cool and intelligent--all things that seem to have been systematically eliminated from television in recent years.

Duke Ellington used to call Oscar Peterson the "Maharajah of the keyboard" which is high praise indeed. Oscar Peterson is on my small list of "interesting Canadians". Most of we Canadians are not terribly interesting, but all the interesting ones seem to come, with one exception, from Montréal. Oscar Peterson, of course, but also William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek and a fellow alumnus of McGill University) and Leonard Cohen (yet another McGill alumnus). Who is the interesting Canadian who is not from Montréal? Why Glenn Gould, of course.

I was lucky enough to see Oscar Peterson in concert on one occasion. It was in the late 1970s and he was on tour with guitarist Joe Pass. Here is a photo from that tour:

As a guitarist myself, I actually went to hear Joe Pass primarily. At the beginning, the concert started rather oddly. It appeared that Mr. Pass had neglected to tune his guitar to the piano so the first song was rather horribly out-of-tune.  What really astounded me was that he simply didn't seem to notice! About halfway through the second or maybe the third song he seemed to twig that there was a problem and started to make some adjustments. By the end of that song, or maybe the next, he was pretty much in tune. After that things went pretty well. But it was really Oscar Peterson who impressed that night. A really great jazz pianist with total command of the instrument.

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