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<<  -- 3 --  Malcolm Miller    JAZZ LEGEND


Then the award of Oscar Peterson's Honorary Membership was announced, listing his distinguished contribution as one of the greatest jazz pianists in music history. Peterson's moving response, made in a gentle voice with a warm smile, displayed the same flair and charm as his jazz performances. He began by emphasising that the awards he most delighted in were those from 'classical' societies, since this made the point that jazz was on an equal artistic level with so-called 'serious' music. He then made what for many was a surprising autobiographical observation, that his concert career had been spurred on by his feelings for his brother, a talented pianist whom the family had lost at an early age. He had trained as a classical musician as a child, and then moving into jazz his aim was that it should attract the respect equal to classical music. It was a point all the speakers had pinpointed as one of his main achievements. Peterson also confirmed David Young's accounts of his perfectionism. He had early on decided that the only way to obtain the best results was to put in every ounce of effort himself -- for then he could demand that of his ensemble. Finally Peterson paid tribute to his wife for her loving support of his career.

Afterwards the audience went up to shake Peterson's hand, and, joining them, I couldn't think of anything to say but to express my admiration, to offer felicitations, and to wish him good health and even more success in the future. But later in the foyer, he was waiting with his wife for a taxi, I spoke to him again, and asked him whether he still ever just sat down to play 'classical' music: 'Oh yes', he answered, 'I do, and I love especially to play Chopin ...' Then the taxi came. The next day at Toronto 2000, scholars continued to debate pressing issues. Amongst the hundreds of papers arranged in multi-parallel sessions was a particularly felicitous clash that caught my eye, both at 10.30am: 'Oscar Peterson: A Jazz Sensation' by S. Timothy Maloney and Eva Badura-Skoda's 'The Sound of Chopin's Pianos' : was this pure chance?

Copyright © 22 January 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK





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