RIP Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)

Well, we have one more influential musician to remember before the year ends. The great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson passed away on December 23:

Called the “Maharajah of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson is considered to have been one of the greatest piano players in the history of jazz. He played to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.

While Stockhausen (whom we remembered on his death two weeks ago) was an inspiration for his composition, electronic innovations, and ideas about music, Peterson was all about performance and technique, and joy of playing jazz at a high level. As a young jazz pianist, I used Oscar Peterson's piano solos as practice. In particular, I remember playing the minor bluesy Roundalay, which was my successful audition piece for All State Jazz in New York. Certainly, I could never even attempt to match the actual solos at full speed.

You can get a sense of the real thing from this video:

We close with these comments from the CBC:

Renowned for his speed and virtuosity as a pianist, Peterson ? who was born in Montreal and later made Toronto his home ? made hundreds of recordings in his career, even after a stroke in 1993 disabled his left hand…

…”The world has lost the world's greatest jazz player,” Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga and Peterson's friend, told CBC News on Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: You can read his obituary from Mississauga.

Tour Kick-off show in Oakland

The tour for Polly Moller and Company began last night with out kick-off show at 1510 8th Street in Oakland:

We were a trio last night, rather than a quartet. Guitarist Bill Wolter joins us tomorrow for the trip north.

I also performed a solo set to open the evening:

(Photo by Polly Moller)

Once again, I am playing the ektar (single-string instrument).

This is the first performance in which I used two laptops (both PC and Mac), mainly because not everything I wanted to use last night ran on a single system. I also took advantage of the excellent piano present at 1510. I improvised against the electronics, trying to match the timbre and “vague pitches” – the piano was also picked up by the mic for processing. And I opened the set with a brief rendition of “Alley Cat” (which has been stuck in my head after the bad kitty chaos festival from a couple of weekends back).

I will be doing another solo set for our show in Astoria, Oregon.

Nora, The Piano-Playing Cat

This wonderful video features Nora, the piano-playing cat. Not a synthesizer, but it is a keyboard instrument.

In addition to the simple cuteness of a cat playing piano, I actually found myself listening to music itself. Clearly a lot of major and minor seconds, mostly because they are easy to reach with a single paw, but there is also the strong repeating rhythm. And she seems remarkably consistent over multiple brief “performances.”

I recommend listening to Nora's music without observing the video, as I am now, and you will hear an interesting minimal atonal piece that stands on its own. Many detractors of atonal and free-rhythm music often argue that “their five-year old could do that” or even that their pet could do that, but perhaps the fact that it captures childlike and cat-like innocence is part of the charm such music.