Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Oscar Peterson


I was very sad to hear that jazz legend, Oscar Peterson passed away a week ago. Though I make no claims to be an authority on jazz, I would describe myself as a casual fan of the genre, as my taste for 50's/60's swing vocalists is certainly closely related. My preference in jazz has been for the lighter, melodic practitioners, and particularly those who cover the standards of The Great American Songbook. Certainly Oscar Peterson covered his share of the songs I love in his own inimitable style.

Born in Montreal, Oscar was certainly a source of pride to we Canadians for having become a jazz pianist of world renown. And unlike so many Canadian performers who move to the U.S. once they hit the big time, Oscar Peterson chose to remain in Canada, settling into a typical suburban neighbourhood here in Mississauga Ontario, the city where I also currently reside. In fact, it has been something of a thrill to know that the great man lived less than 10 miles away from my house. I remember looking him up in a celebrity address directory I bought awhile back and had always intended to drive over to his street in the hopes of getting a glimpse of him. Alas, I never did get around to it and, since Oscar had been in poor health and mostly confined to a wheelchair these last several years, I regret that I never went to try and meet him back when I might have had a chance to. I was happy to read in the articles since his death that he was very much an average guy who was quite social with his neighbours, ever a kind and modest man.

I recalled I had a videotaped concert from the early 90's on Oscar, so I played it recently in order to get this caricature of him. Though I had hoped to take it to finished ink and colour like most of what I've been posting, I actually kind of like the energy in this rough sketch, so I've decided to post it as is. Since jazz itself is often spontaneously played, I think it maybe makes sense to show this equally spontaneous rough drawing of Oscar. However, I do intend to finish it up in due time and may post up the finished piece later.

I've got a number of Oscar Peterson's albums on CD. My favourite is his "Canadiana Suite", which is all his own compositions. There's also a great team-up with him and vibraphonist, Lionel Hampton, on the Verve label that is quite wonderful. I really should try to get the album he did with Count Basie, whom I also really enjoy. Anyway, on a final note, here is a clip of the great Oscar Peterson that looks like it dates back about 10 years prior to the source of my caricature of him. For such a giant of a man, it is amazing to me just how nimble those fingers were - Enjoy!

13 comments:

tiny dean said...

What a visually appealing piece! Even if the drawing didn't resemble the late Mr. Peterson, I would still like it.

Kitty said...

I think it looks like Oscar Peterson - and I admired his talent. It's always sad when a major talent passes away. Cool drawing - as ever. x

Thad K said...

Peterson was one of the last connections we had to the older world of jazz. He will be missed. Thanks for sharing the drawing.

Marlo Meekins said...

pretty cooooooool

Bill Field said...

Man Oh Man-Yo, P.E. you sure captured O.P. on the Downbeat, Fantastic as usual-- You know, Jazz and Cartoons and the artists of both have alot in common, I think, having graduated from North Texas, and sharing a morning show with the great Chris Deridas for two years, and being a cartoonist for awhile. Hubley worked with Peterson on a couple of animated shorts, and quipped about the feelings and moods between the arts as synchopated, mixing music tones in one, color tones in the other.

Pete Emslie said...

Hey Bill,

I agree with the compatibility of jazz and cartoons - they really go well together. I think the reason that "The Jungle Book" has remained my favourite feature has a lot to do with its jazzy, swinging songs. Same thing with Peggy Lee's "He's a Tramp" in "Lady and the Tramp". I also love Hoyt Curtin's jazzy theme songs for the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons (especially "Top Cat") and the great Vince Guaraldi's scores for the "Peanuts" TV specials. Can you imagine a TV exec greenlighting something as inspired as that today? More likely it would have some inane rock crap accompanying it these days.

Oscar Peterson's music for a couple or so NFB animated shorts from my childhood is a memory that resonates with me to this day. There's just something so playful about that combination. I really loved Oscar's music.

Mitch K said...

Hey Pete! CBC Radio 2 just finished up a week-long presentation on Oscar last night... I'm sorry I didn't see your post sooner -- I would have made you aware!

Awesome caricature! As usual.

Beast said...

Fantastic!
I love your work.

Mel Maduro said...

The land of jazz will weep. Amazing stuff, Pete.

Mitch K said...

PETE!!!

Oscar Peterson tribute tomorrow (Sunday the 20th) on CBC Radio 2!!

"Oscar Peterson - Simply the Best will be broadcast live at 4:05pm – 6:00pm by CBC Radio One and Sirius 137 at 4:05pm ET - 6:00pm. The broadcast will be repeated at 8:05pm – 10:00pm by CBC Radio Two and by SRC Espace Musique 8:05pm - 10:00pm"

ENJOY!

david gemmill said...

early oscar peterson is great. you can hear the erroll garner influence (and he even did a tribute). another major loss. nice drawing

Whit said...

I'd say if Oscar had a major jazz influence, it was Art Tatum.

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