Hardbopjazz

Does Oscar Peterson get a bad rap?

143 posts in this topic

I’ve seen mention here as well as other places on the web, where people state that they’re not big fans of Oscar Peterson. “He plays too many notes”, etc. Does he get a bad rap? After all, he’s performed and recorded with all the greats of Jazz, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and many others. Norman Granz featured Oscar Peterson in his first jazz at the Philharmonic tours back in the late 40s. I don’t mind his playing. In fact I kind of like it.  How about the rest of you here?  

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My point of view - he's a fine musician and usually plays the "obvious" instead of the more "interesting". He tends to "overplay" rather than play the "subtle" thing.

Chops a plenty to wow the crowds and the followers.

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Yes, he does get a bad rap, though I agree with Chuck in that he too often took the safe route. I wish he found himself more often in unfamiliar contexts, like Emerson, Peterson & Palmer.

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How come no one ever complains about Art Tatum playing too many notes?

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I guess some of you may have seen the video with Keith Emerson, a bespectacled Carl Palmer and an unknown bassist playing a duet of 
"Honky Tonk Train Blues" on a CBC television broadcast.

 

I always enjoyed Oscar Peterson, he was a delightful improviser and a gifted composer. He was also a lot of fun in an interview, I lost track of how many times I broke up laughing and he got a kick out of my sharing Niels Pedersen's response to my question about how he discovered a vocalist who appeared on this then-new CD.

Ask me about Keith Jarrett and I would answer a bit differently.

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What Chuck said. Plus his comping either can be compulsive (e.g. one of the two concerts on "Getz and JJ at the Opera House") or kind of clunky , in the way. Why there should be such variance, I can't say.

31 minutes ago, Captain Howdy said:

How come no one ever complains about Art Tatum playing too many notes?

More than a few people do make that complaint, but Tatum's frequent blizzard of notes is IMO different in intent and effect than Peterson's.

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1 hour ago, B. Clugston said:

Yes, he does get a bad rap, though I agree with Chuck in that he too often took the safe route. I wish he found himself more often in unfamiliar contexts, like Emerson, Peterson & Palmer.

It's funny that I didn't click on your link. I've long been aware of this clip and it's on a Keith Emerson disc. Of course, Oscar Peterson enjoyed playing boogie woogie as a young man.

 

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I was hesitant to respond like a repeater-pencil, and my views are semi-well known, but I actually find Peterson's playing offensive.

I find it glib, shallow, mired in cliche, fake-jazz, annoying, and....well, I guess that makes my point. As an improvisor, something about which I know a bit, he plays what to my ears are pre-digested patterns, with a rhythmic sameness that is deadening (and deadly).

I am mindful that many intelligent people like his playing, but to me he is the Donald Trump of this music, trying futilely to Make Jazz Great Again. Well, it never needed his help.

Edited by AllenLowe

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My take, FWIW, is that while he certainly can be a bit of a steamroller and I don't go out of my way to buy things he's on and don't buy his records at all, I have many things that he's on and often enough enjoy his playing on them.  And he's Canadian, so bonus points!

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I find him to be a fine player, often an excellent player.  I will never understand the blanket categorization of him as overplaying and lacking subtlety.  He was occasionally a good composer, as we see in "Wheatland," "Hymn to Freedom," and others.  This is subtle creative, beautiful stuff.  He's just a hackneyed, full-bore player?  Have you not listened to "If You Only Knew" or "A Child is Born"?

Sure, his nature was conservative and he did not create great albums like Miles and Coltrane.  But how many can do that?

I have long considered Oscar Peterson a jazz great.

 

Edited by Milestones

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I can take him in small doses. Tatum is just dazzling. 

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2 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I was hesitant to respond like a repeater-pencil, and my views are semi-well known, but I actually find Peterson's playing offensive.

I find it glib, shallow, mired in cliche, fake-jazz, annoying, and....well, I guess that makes my point. As an improvisor, something about which I know a bit, he plays what to my ears are pre-digested patterns, with a rhythmic sameness that is deadening (and deadly).

I am mindful that many intelligent people like his playing, but to me he is the Donald Trump of this music, trying futilely to Make Jazz Great Again. Well, it never needed his help.

Entitled to your opinion of course, but I've always dug him from the time I heard "The Trio" when I was 8 or 9 years old, I enjoy his ballad playing too.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I agree with what Chuck said in post #2. Oscar was an amazing player, of course, but most times, for me, a bore.

There are some good moments in the "Exclusively For My Friends" series, from the 60s. The best I heard was his Limelight "Canadiana Suite", but the beautiful, elaborate cover outclassed the music.

He was ideal for Norman Granz's 50s showcases for Bird, Prez etc. I'm sure that the soloists would have been pleased when told that Oscar would be on piano. The word "fuctional" comes to mind.

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7 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I was hesitant to respond like a repeater-pencil, and my views are semi-well known, but I actually find Peterson's playing offensive.

I find it glib, shallow, mired in cliche, fake-jazz, annoying, and....well, I guess that makes my point. As an improvisor, something about which I know a bit, he plays what to my ears are pre-digested patterns, with a rhythmic sameness that is deadening (and deadly).

I am mindful that many intelligent people like his playing, but to me he is the Donald Trump of this music, trying futilely to Make Jazz Great Again. Well, it never needed his help.

Brutal.

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Oscar Peterson was the first piano Player I heard on record, only because Maybe the schoolmate who had the Album didn´t have others than Oscar Peterson, who was quit en vogue in the 70´s especially by People who otherwise didn´t listen much to jazz. : Oscar Peterson and or Erroll Garner, thats it was.

 

But my start was fine: The two Albums "Night Trane" and "We Get Requests" still get Spinning, since he Plays in a more spare manner on it and doesn´t exagerate the whole stuff.

I sold all the other Peterson Albums and kept and Keep to enjoy those two, and for the combination with vocals the "In Tune" with the Singers Unlimited, also a Peterson in a more subdued manner…… nice ! 

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What Mr. Nessa said .... 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Captain Howdy said:

How come no one ever complains about Art Tatum playing too many notes?

Well, let's make the fallacious assumption that they don't. Going from there, an objective analysis of the notes being played (that is to say, what the notes are doing, not simply how many of them there are) showed that although Tatum, like Peterson, had his pet runs and devices used in abundance, many times to excess, he also had at least one or two, maybe even three, higher creative gears that Peterson never did have, especially when it came to harmony. Peterson could take a song and dazzle it into irrelevance. Tatum could take a song and transform it into transcendence. Not that he always did. But he could, and often enough did. Peterson, no. Never.

So, that's why.

10 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I am mindful that many intelligent people like his playing, but to me he is the Donald Trump of this music, trying futilely to Make Jazz Great Again. Well, it never needed his help.

The big difference there is that Donald Trump is still alive.

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12 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

I was hesitant to respond like a repeater-pencil, and my views are semi-well known, but I actually find Peterson's playing offensive.

I find it glib, shallow, mired in cliche, fake-jazz, annoying, and....well, I guess that makes my point. As an improvisor, something about which I know a bit, he plays what to my ears are pre-digested patterns, with a rhythmic sameness that is deadening (and deadly).

I am mindful that many intelligent people like his playing, but to me he is the Donald Trump of this music, trying futilely to Make Jazz Great Again. Well, it never needed his help.

I put that through Google Translate and it came back as, 'Oscar Peterson is popular.  I am not.  Please pay attention to me.'  Odd.

Edited by Justin V

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Not my favorite pianist perhaps, though I often enjoy listening to him. 

" glib, shallow, mired in cliche, fake-jazz, annoying" 

Perhaps that's right; I am not a jazz intellectual and don't have the expertise of the jazz PhD's on this Board. But I honestly can't apply these adjectives to this particular solo album (which may arguably be Oscar's best). 

R-3193001-1385402056-3840.jpeg.jpg

Edited by John Tapscott

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I don't think you have to be a "jazz intellectual" (whatever that is) to dislike Oscar Peterson's playing. Plenty of people just don't like that kind of thing, period. Back in the day when there were blue collar jazz fans, I knew plenty who liked him, and plenty who didn't.

It doesn't take any special gift/capacity/intellect to either like or dislike him. As with Bruce Springsteen, Wynton Marsalis, Ornette Coleman, Donald Trump, Disney Princesses, poodledogs, SUVs, navy blue slacks, you name it, some people just do not like that type of thing, period.

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Peterson's playing definitely provokes STRONG reactions, both pro and con. No doubt about that.

I've found that I like Peterson best when he's sharing the front line with a musical partner. I'm thinking about his collaborations with guys like Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Milt Jackson, and others.

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9 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

Peterson's playing definitely provokes STRONG reactions, both pro and con. No doubt about that.

Frankly, now that he's dead and now that I listen less and less to things that he's on (not by choice, mind you, just evolving listening regimens), I find myself not thinking too much about him, and not getting riled up when I do. True, I generally just don't like him, but at some point it's like, you know, the guy's dead, he did what he did, there it lies, ok, let's move on.

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