Oscar Peterson. What is left to say about such an icon?
Would it be fair to give a critical review about an 81
year old man who could barely cross the stage to get to
the piano? No, he is beyond critiquing. All appearance
of frailty aside, by the time his fingers hit the keys,
you would never know he was 81.
His set was about what I would have expected--equal
parts blues, standards and ballads. Perhaps he did lean
a little heavily toward the ballads (mostly originals)
but by the time he got to Sweet Georgia Brown (about
two hours after he started) he just shredded the solos.
Truly amazing for someone at any age.
He had a very adept band rounding out the quartet,
including a guitar player who sounded eerily like the
late Joe Pass, a staple Peterson collaborator.
The familiar standards included Satin Doll (very modern
reharmonization of the chords), Neal Hefti's Cute, and
a gorgeous Here's That Rainy Day. The audience was
mesmerized of course, and almost everyone in the
audience I talked to was either a piano player, guitar
player, or drummer.
So what can we learn from attending such a performance?
I personally was able to watch his hands and for the
first time, connect what his playing sounds like to
what it looks like. Maybe, just maybe, some of that
playing will rub off on me.
I wanted to drive home right a way after the concert
and try some things out. But for me, it was a three
hour drive that got me home at 1:30 am and too tired to
do any practicing. But first thing the next morning I
was at the piano.
Of course Oscar at 81 isn't the same as hearing him
when he was 41. Certainly he has lost a few miles per
hour off his fastball. But he's made up for it by
becoming more of a finesse player. He consistently gets
his curve balls over, and has a devastating change-up.
He was everything a legend should be.