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The talks also focused on his remarkable virtuosity, that led to the meteoric progress of his career and popularity on early radio shows, illustrated with some choice clips from very rare broadcast archives. His creativity, particularly in the harmonic sphere, was also discussed, with examples showing the sheer complexity and fluency of his style, evidence of a sound and sure classical grounding. The way he would interact with his ensembles, and his stage presence, was commented on with affection and admiration. David Young, his bassist for many years, shared some amusing and revealing anecdotes. How he had given up an orchestral post to go on a world tour with Peterson; how he would practise and practise a solo before a set, and be told that, if it didn't work, Peterson would do one himself -- a competitiveness that kept them all on their mettle. He insisted on painstaking rehearsal and was a perfectionist -- for Young, every performance showed Peterson's energy and drive at maximum power, the exhilarating experience of which was illustrated in some video footage.

One speaker said how privileged he was to be speaking in the presence of his hero; his enthusiasm radiated throughout the auditorium. Someone at one point was so delighted he exclaimed 'this is getting gooder and gooder!' -- which for me epitomized the curious, and entirely apt, interface between spontaneous jazz musician and disciplined academic that gave the event its memorable, appealing quality.

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Copyright © 22 January 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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