So Long To A Giant


Oscar Peterson, piano-jazz legend, has died at the age of 82. The Verve re-issue of Peterson's Night Train has been in rotation in my CD player for months now; it's a great collection of songs, one which jazz historian Benny Green describes in the liner notes thusly: "If the dominant emotion of the album is Pastness, its dominant form is the Blues in all its shades of intensity…" It's an album on which Peterson grapples musically with the songs and performers whose impact shaped his style. And what a style it was. Green continues, "The first time I ever saw Peterson perform, in London in 1953, he opened with a medium-tempo blues, and I have never forgotten the impact he made…"In George Saunders' recent collection of essays, The Braindead Megaphone, he describes the duality of The Ambitious American. He writes that our history is often the story of the two sides to our national ambitious character. It's an often times just crazy spirit that defines us - the same spirit that gave us Rhapsody In Blue and Absalom! Absalom! also gave us the Vietnam War and some of our greatest economic, social and political failures.Peterson proved it's partially a story not limited to Americans. After all, he was Canadian. With his loss the world loses an artist whose work, dreams, talent, style, and ambition fell on that timeless, astonishing side of the coin described by Saunders. Dick Katz, also in the liner notes for Night Train, writes that Peterson's musical imprint comes from "the overall perfection attained by really hard work and prodigious talent; not just technical prowess, but control of the musical materials."Here's saying so long to a musical giant, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time.

In These Times August 2022 Cover
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