JSngry

The "I Never Cared For Oscar Peterson's Playing" Corner

116 posts in this topic

I'm not glad he's dead, though. But I'll not listen to him any more because he is, nor will I reconsider by opinion.

Edited by JSngry

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I used to belong fully to this camp.

I've really waffled the last four years or so though. I started to really listen to a lot of his fifties accompaniment. . . and saw how apropos he was in most of those sessions. And I began to listen to a lot of the trio sides (Songbooks, London House, etc.) and. . . enjoy the heck out of them for what they were.

What a career!

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I used to belong fully to this camp.

I've really waffled the last four years or so though. I started to really listen to a lot of his fifties accompaniment. . . and saw how apropos he was in most of those sessions. And I began to listen to a lot of the trio sides (Songbooks, London House, etc.) and. . . enjoy the heck out of them for what they were.

What a career!

We inhabit a parallel universe on this one, Jazzbo. I had (almost exactly) the same experience.

But really, I should stay the heck outta this thread! ;) Props to Mr. Sangrey for starting it...

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As I stated in the RIP thread, I am firmly in the Peterson camp. There are reasons to mourn his passing, but quite frankly, the fact that he can't make any more recoridngs is not one of them. In fact, I'm kind of glad he can't make any more since his playing declined quite noticeably over the past few years. I'm not referring to the time after his stroke in '93, because after coming back from his stroke OP made a couple of fine records for Telarc (one with Clark Terry and Benny Carter, another with Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore.) His playing had changed, but was still pretty strong and he seemed stimulated by the sidemen, especially drummer Lewis Nash. But over the past 7 or 8 years, OP's playing changed further and lacked the strength and security of even these recordings. The most recent OP recording that I know of is the DVD/CD "A Night in Vienna" from '03 with the Quartet. OP swings hard and struggles gamely through two sets before an adoring crowd in elegant surroundings. But quite frankly, OP's playing is quite sloppy at times and is a bit painful to watch and hear. It was not a great ending to his recorded career, I'm afraid, and probably shouldn't ahve been released

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I always found him to be bland. I also thought that was the majority view; I take it I was wrong on that.

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Well, it was my first jazz concert ever: The Oscar Peterson Trio with Sam Jones and Bobby Durham in Munich during a week's trip with my school class. Everybody was going to a classical concert except my best friend and myself - we talked our teacher, who also was giving us music lessons, to accept it as an event of cultural value. It was beyond my comprehension back then - I was 16 IIRC. But it was a nice introduction.

I hardly listened to him after that. Too virtuosic for my taste, even the simpler styled classics like Night Train don't grab me like any Ahmad Jamal or Wynton Kelly album. He was appreciated in Germany because they went for virtuosos - to prove jazz musicians were as good as classical musicians. But any idiot can tell whether someone is technically good. Musically, I think he was overrated. A good pianist, of course, but not too original. He may have been at his best during his Verve years, accompanying a host of jazz greats.

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Actually -- and I know enough OP to suspect that this is true but have never sat down to do the necessary extensive research -- within seemingly not that broad stylisistic boundaries, there's a heck of a lot of variation in OP's recorded output IMO, though not having done the research, I'm not sure how it all breaks down. For instance, I was pleasantly surprised a while back by the CD repackaging of OP's Granz-era album of Basie material -- relaxed, inventive, relatively free from the mechanical bluesiness that drives some OP listeners from the room. For another, the famous Stratford Shakespearean Fest album deserves its fame. As I think Gunther Schuller said, it is a remarkable feat of small-combo orchestration and execution and a lot of visceral fun. Likewise, OP's famous early (I think JATP) trio performance of "Tenderly" with (I think) the Kessel version of the trio, much of it in OP's version of the locked-hands style, is a formidable, albeit worked-out feat of orchestration and execution that holds one's attention (at least it does mine) throughout. OP as an accompanist is where I'd really need to do careful research to sort out what I think is going on. My sense at the time was that after a certain point in his Granz house-pianist days, maybe 1957, he was a chugging drag on many dates, though many of those had enough going on otherwise to be overall pluses. On the other hand, I recall a fair number of Granz OP sideman dates from a year or two before this (the Hampton-DeFranco "Flying Home," most of the Jam Session series, etc.) and some things from later on (e.g. the Ella and Louis albums, the album with the OP Trio and Getz), where OP seems to me to be fresh, alert, energetic, and sensitive to what others were playing. About the downside of OP the accompanist, though, echo-ing something EDC said, compare the way Jimmy Rowles plays behind Ben Webster on Harry Edison's "Sweets" to the way OP plays behind Webster on any Granz session.

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He was appreciated in Germany because they went for virtuosos - to prove jazz musicians were as good as classical musicians. But any idiot can tell whether someone is technically good.

Good point. And quite true indeed of how some of the more technically accomplished jazzmen were/are viewed in Germany (especially when playing a "classical instrument") where classical music and the longing for "respectability" has tended to interfere with jazz for much too long (cf. those "Third Stream" doings of way back and the hullaballoo about the MJQ in its heyday).

But though I wouldn't say OP was overrated and not very original I can see the point his critics have been making on that RIP thread - "all virtuosity and what else?"

What baffles me in that OP RIP thread (to the extent I've read it) is another thing, however: The obits mention how OP was impressed by Art Tatum and his proficiency and virtuosity. But haven't exactly the same complaints been made about Art Tatum time and again in past decades, too, i.e. that he was too much of a virtuoso, all pianistic but not enough of a hard-swinging jazzman?

Are these complaints still being made about Art Tatum today?

Could it be that maybe the time for a universal appraisal of the jazzman Oscar Peterson hasn't come yet? ;)

Or were the detractors who complained about "too much pianistic virtuosity and not enough jazz-like swing" all wrong in the case of Tatum but right in the case of Peterson? :D

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Geesh, is it that important for people to dump on a dead artist? Amazing. to start a thread for the sole purpose of telling us that you don't like OP. I just don't get this in the least... :(

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Wow! There's only six other people in the world, other than me, who listen to Art Tatum with actual pleasure?

What is the exact count on that for Cecil Taylor?

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Geesh, is it that important for people to dump on a dead artist? Amazing. to start a thread for the sole purpose of telling us that you don't like OP. I just don't get this in the least... :(

The reason for starting this thread was twofold: 1) Some people on the other thread were bothered by criticism there of a recently dead artist, so here we are now; those who don't want to hear this kind of talk have an easy option 2) Trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff among jazz artists, and within the career of a single jazz artist, seems like a fairly natural and arguably necessary thing to do, unless you're one of those "It's all good" people. Don't we all do a lot of that sorting out in the course of our lives as jazz fans? Now doing that in a public forum does add some stress and suggests that mere name-calling might be not a great idea. But are you suggesting that doubts about the value of OP's playing should now never be expressed, or that the subject of what his flaws as a jazz musician might be is of absolutely of no interest?

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"As I stated in the RIP thread, I am firmly in the Peterson camp"

there's always one nasty guy who has to mess up the thread -

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and while we're on the subject, I never liked Larry Kart's piano playing, either -

sorry, Larry, but when it comes to piano you're no Bill Evans (actually referring to Yusef Lateef, or is it that guy who used to play tenor with Miles? Or maybe I mean Gil Evans, not the arranger, but the guy who used to play at the Holiday Inn in Cleveland) -

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on the other hand, Larry plays a mean Lady of Spain on accordion -

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he's the kind of "witless turd" (Adorno's words, not mine)

:lol:

Some thoughts:

I think the appeal with Oscar applies to a lot of less-flashy but entirely "technical" pianists, in both the mainstream and avant-garde circles.

But then again, figures looming as large as Cecil have been derided for being purely "technical" players, and I wonder whether they are hearing the same player that I am.

What is it about OP that differentiates him from, say, Jaki Byard? I'd like to say it's something so nebulous as "soul," but how can someone with a stylistic grab-bag use that bag and "merely" use it? (note that I've listened to a helluva lot more Jaki than OP, so I could be reaching with the comparison here)

Is it that, as Misha M. told me, "Monk was an architect, but Herbie Nichols was a painter..." ,implying less a disdain for Monk (architects build things that require use - like Lacy's adage that Monk created an impulse to "get to the other side") than an overarching importance of expression, gesture, quantifiable feeling that frequently is empty from a significant amount of piano-trio mood music?

I was driving around with my dad this weekend, and he's a fan of piano trios - contemporary stuff, mostly - and it all has this similar and indescribably "decent" ring to it. As derided as they might be by some, at least one can pick out McCoy or Bill Evans from this stuff. Putting Nichols up next to it is a true "apples & oranges" situation, indeed. I would assume that OP probably has a bit more "soul" than somebody like Lynn Arriale, but to be honest, her trio version of "Aiko Aiko" was really getting to me in a positive way - moreso than the last OP track I can remember hearing, actually.

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of course, Larry's no Jim Alfredson, who plays that big thing with all the keys and the pedals, I think it may be just a huge accordion but I'm not sure - will have to ask CHEWY -

Edited by AllenLowe

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sorry, Clifford, lost continuity there - I really find OP like that trumpeter, what's his name, the guy from Cuba who always sounds like he's playing Fllight of the Bumble-bee? Sandoval - but to me the ultimate indictment of Peterson is something I referred to earlier in that other thread; that I, Allen Lowe, pedestrian pianist and former chopper of chopsticks and other etudes from the John something-or-other first piano book, can do a passable imitation of Oscar playing the blues on piano - lots of little blues cliches executed with speed and no finesse, up and down the keys, up and down and round and round - impresses people who know little about jazz. It's also a little bit, to me, like that Groucho line about not wanting to be a member of any club that would have him as a member - I don't want to listen to any piano player who plays like me -

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of course, Larry's no Jim Alfredson, who plays that big thing with all the keys and the pedals, I think it may be just a huge accordion but I'm not sure - will have to ask CHEWY -

So many accordian players start playing it only to get girls. I hope that this is not why Larry took it up.

accordian.jpg

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that does look an awful lot like Kart -

look, if people get tired of this thread, we can always go back to Scott Yanow -

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Regarding some of what Big Beat Steve and EDC said above about Tatum -- Tatum was at best and above all a surreally witty virtuoso of harmonic thinking; the digital dexterity, rhythmic fluidity, and range of/control of touch were all essentially in the service of that. Fact is -- quoting a friend of mine and a great Tatum admirer -- most jazz fans don't really listen harmonically, not that much; thus they hear Tatum's speed and flourishes but tend not to get what he is actually up to. On this, take a look at Felicity Howlett's Tatum entry in Jazz Grove or even better her notes to the 2-LP Smithsonian Tatum set (if you can find it). That the same or similar complaints were made about both Tatum and OP's virtuosity doesn't prove that they were virtuosos of a similar kind. In terms of speed, maybe. In terms of range of touch, no. And in terms of subtlety of harmonic thought, and the centrality of that thought to the rest of each man's style, not even close, although IIRC there is some overtly Tatumesque OP on the MPS solo albums that's very tasty.

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Allen:

I have this Smiley Winters CD that Bert Wilson put out, with Warren Gale on trumpet.

There's a Gale solo on the first track that is quite fantastic from a technical standpoint, playing all these scales and fast runs that have their own internal logic as phrases, returning back in on themselves and so forth, and extremely "flashy."

It used to bother me a bit - or, rather, I found it kind of boring - but enjoy the solo more now. Whether purely technical or not, he was obviously into his own thing there, and found a way that he and the structure of the tune could create something together that's pretty unique. But the thing is, it is unique and not just a mashing together of "licks," which is probably what Arturo does and certainly what you're implying OP does. And maybe that's my problem with a lot of contemporary pianists I hear. Strange that that approach bothers me less in the contexts of free jazz or bop.

Edited by clifford_thornton

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Wow! There's only six other people in the world, other than me, who listen to Art Tatum with actual pleasure?

What is the exact count on that for Cecil Taylor?

Evidently, I'm one of the Magnificent Seven as well. I wonder who the other five are?

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Yes, that's me with the squeeze box in that cartoon. I was trying to sound like Mat Mathews. It did attract girls, but after the set I could never unhook and pack away the darn thing quickly enough.

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You need someone like Andrea Parkins or Pauline Oliveros.

It'd be bliss!

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