oscar, with love

oscar-with-love The legendary Oscar Peterson would have turned 90 this year. To commemorate, his wife Kerry decided to produce an album of his compositions on his old piano performed by his old friends. She launched it with a special concert last night at Koerner Hall. I was lucky enough to be there.

IMG_9943It was pure serendipity. Got the last tickets, high in the upper balcony looking far down to the stage. I felt like a voyeur at a wonderful private party. 8 artists played a mix of Peterson’s songs on his Bosendorfer Imperial piano that they had somehow moved from the basement studio of his house in Mississauga.

I am ashamed of how little I knew about Peterson. I had listened to Night Train and heard stories of his performances at the Purple Onion on Bloor Street. Turns out he played everything from Bach to Beatles, won a multitude of awards, including 8 Grammys and collaborated with everyone who was anyone in the jazz world. Duke Ellington called him the “Maharaja of the keyboard” while Ray Charles noted, “Oscar could play like a motherfucker”. He wrote thousands of hours of music.

canada post  His daughter Celine hosted the evening, introducing the songs and the performers with personal stories, occasionally forgetting her formal role; calling him Dad. So charming! My favorite anecdote was hearing about Uncle Olli (pianist Oliver Jones to the rest of us) and her father taking piano lessons from Peterson’s sister Daisy when they were kids together in Montreal. Jones played Celine’s Waltz. Peterson had played the song to her all her life but had never recorded it. I choked back tears.

oscar with kelly (photo from metronews toronto)

oscar with kelly (photo from metronews toronto)

When she introduced her mother, the crowd rose to their feet. Kelly spoke of the challenges of getting this labour of love produced. She has originally assumed a record label would leap at the chance…. A bunch of great (and famous) musicians interpreting a great man’s music… seemed like a slam-dunk. Not one was interested. She had to do it herself. The record (I’m old fashioned, plan to buy it on vinyl!) features never before released compositions as well as a few old favourites.

IMG_9961If Gerald Clayton’s recording of Hymn to Freedom is even half as good as his live rendition last night, it is worth buying the album for that alone. It may just be the perfect gift to find under the tree this year. http://www.oscarwithlove.com

5 thoughts on “oscar, with love

  1. Hi Julie Anna Really enjoyed this post, as always. I wonder if you would allow me to share this with Salt Spring musician friends who are big fans. They were telling us a story that Oliver Jones was once introduced south of the border as “Canada’s answer to Oscar Peterson” !! I would edit out your links. Sally Bazzard



  2. Hi Julie….love this post. I am a lover of all music and a real Oscar Peterson fan. I had Robert pick one of his songs for his Royal Conservatory exam and was thrilled at listening to it when he was training. I think that he will know it for the rest of his life too. The Royal Conservatory sends me updated emails and I did see that there was a concert yesterday and would have loved to have been there as well. I will have to treat myself and take the time to listen to the concert in its entirety as I wasn’t able to watch the live feed last night. He is a national treasure.

    Thanks for the post and I will ask for the collection for Christmas.

    Les xo


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