Monday, December 24, 2007

Oscar Peterson 1924-2007

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I only heard/saw Oscar Peterson live once. Norman Granz brought Jazz at the Philharmonic to the cavernous barn called the the Cleveland Auditorium in the spring of 1967, the first (and, ultimately, last in the U.S.) JATP tour since 1957. I had a student in sophomore English whose father had been one of the DJ heirs to Alan Freed, when he left WJW Radio in 1958 for New York City. (Oooohhh, the loss: No more Moondog late at night, listened to in bed with a tiny transistor radio).

The kid had picked up that I was into jazz; he told me that he could get me one of his dad's comps. It wasn't all that hard a ticket to get; the hall wasn't full. But I was in the third row. The lineup was incredible: Duke, Ella, Oscar, Clark Terry, Joe Pass, Cootie Williams, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims...on and on. Ellington introduced Oscar with that sobriquet he clearly loved to deliver: "The ever cool and aloof, Oscar Peterson".

I have never been to a rock concert. I've only been to one great concert. Oscar played two numbers solo that night, then accompanied Ella Fitzgerald's set, including an extraordinary "conversation"-- Ella laying down her sass in scat, he pressing the issue with that incomparable playing.


Thanks again to that sophomore and his dad.

Thanks, many thanks, to Oscar Peterson--the greatest jazz pianist of the 20th Century.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.