This article was originally published by FYIMusicNews.
I spent the past week sifting through cassettes of past interviews, some dating back to my days at Q-107 and Q-Jazz in 1985. Conversations with the titans of jazz.
One such cassette contains an interview with Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson just after the release of In the Key of Oscar in 1992, an excellent documentary produced by Oscar’s niece Sylvia Sweeney, the daughter of Oscar’s sister and first piano teacher, Daisy Peterson. Sweeney herself is a decorated Olympian in basketball, an Order of Canada recipient and champion of many social causes.
The informality of the setting and Peterson’s ease in responding to the questions made the exchanges a step beyond the conventional. A musician asks far different questions than a DJ or a talking head, much like someone who has played the game of baseball and someone who works themselves up from the bottom into the broadcasting booth.
Peterson experienced a stroke in 1993 after undergoing hip replacement surgery and playing at the Blue Note nightclub. It’s hard to grasp what went through Peterson’s mind for the next 14 years till his passing in 2007. Yet the thousands of concerts performed over 60 years, hundreds of recordings, and the many citations and celebrations in his name tell much about the man and the piano he so cherished.
Oscar is that bridge between the past and the present: Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Nat Cole, Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines and Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. No one swings harder or plays with such a lilting touch.