Saturday, February 02, 2008

O.P.


Last night was "Oscar Peterson Night" on BBC4. It started at 10 and I planned to watch an hour or so whilst I supped a beer before going to bed. Tinseltroos has the snots and was so already tucked up and dozing. As T hates jazz with a passion (nobody's perfect) I did the honourable thing and drew one of the dining chairs up to the T.V., plugged my headphones in and sat to watch. Our dining chairs aren't the most comfortable and yet there I sat for the full three hours of the show. I was powerless to resist. To see such a titan of his art play and discuss his music was a treat to be savoured.

The interview segment at the end of the show was a repeat of an edition of Omnibus from 1980 (I think) where André Previn and O.P. talked piano and played for an hour and ten minutes. It was a delight. The humilty of the man was also refreshing especially considering the esteem in which everyone held him. These days in music we don't really have an equivalent of the likes of Oscar, by which I mean musicians held in equally high regard for their musicianship as well as their compositional and performance abilities. Oscar had all that by the truck load so you might expect a degree of ego. There was none. he was certainly conscious of his ability, how could he not be, but there was no sense of one-upmanship. He explained this was a result of an incident during his teenage years. At that age he really thought pretty highly of himself and his ability. His father, noticing that the young Oscar's ego was getting out of hand, came home one evening with a record. He suggested to his son that he should give it a listen. The record was Art tatum's "Tiger Rag". Oscar described how he didn't play piano for two months after hearing that piece, and how he cried every night such was his astonishment at what he had heard. His admiration for Tatum continued long after the two eventually became friends.

And now I'm listening to The Sheik of Araby and shall have to go and buy some Art Tatum records after work.

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