The only person in the world who could play the piano like Oscar Peterson was Oscar Peterson...
You can't learn to play like this by ear...
It's either in you or it isn't....
The manual dexterity alone requires far more than I'm capable of and exceeds anything I could imagine myself being able to mimic...
The improvisational composition is unparalleled and very nearly impossible for anyone to duplicate...
Peterson himself would often say that no two of his performances of the same piece were exactly alike...
With the talent and the skill such as seen and heard in this video, you can understand why it wasn't necessary for him to repeat himself...
Case in point:
One of my favorite Oscar Peterson pieces:
Studio rendition v Live version
This was fun! I've heard most of these before, but not for a long time. After 9 years of piano lessons (classical, pop, music theory) I treated myself to a year of jazz lessons. My teacher introduced me to Oscar Peterson and I learned a few simple tunes of his. I mean Really simple. I loved learning them, though. So elegant and gorgeous. But my skills in improvisation were/are truly dismal. I have a decent ear and can play by ear. That year of lessons really helped me to understand more about the beauty of what is possible; and to listen in new ways. (Thanks to my teacher, Dick Hyman, and Oscar Peterson).
Rosi, I took lessons for 8 years but didn't really learn to play until I began to listen....
As I grew older I made it a point to try to 'see' what I was hearing . My mother had taken us to see/hear classical pianists at great distances in stadium style concert seating...
I began to look for seating that put me behind the pianist so I could watch the hands...
It was a lot easier to acquire seats up close that were behind what could be seen on stage...
I also started to frequent the Greenwich Village clubs and venues in. New York where the seating was much more intimate.
Here's a list of the pianists whose hands I was able to see as they performed...
I could tell some stories but not at the moment...
However, I will say this:
Most of us don't play as well as we'd like to but we do play and sound better than we believe we do...
That includes a number of the artists on my list with whom I have had the pleasure and honor to converse and share as you have here....
Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
It's always nice to hear from you...
Thanks for that. Of the three performances, I like the last one best. His initial departure from the head was seriously cool, he exercised a lot of restraint, and cut loose more as he got into the piece. The first one is clearly a showpiece but it accomplishes its point very well.
On the “no two performances exactly alike” front, that’s standard for any improvisation. Once two performances are nearly identical, it isn’t improvisation any more. I jammed rock n roll last night, which in my case involves a lot of improvisation, and I can’t remember what songs I played (if I could even name them, as I was learning some on the spot in real time - easy series of changes), let alone what I did with them.
The most apt story about that is Miles Davis in the making of Kind Of Blue. One of the musicians on the recording, it might have been Cannonball Adderly, was practicing and Davis had a fit, saying he only wanted fresh content on the recording - he wanted it fully created in the moment. I once read or heard that Brubeck often had solos basically figured out and that what he’d do is start from what he figured out and improvise further from there, by which I assume he meant different ornamentation and alterations on his theme in real time. I don’t think most jazz musicians work like that.
Peterson will teach you about your limitations really fast. I had that experience on guitar when I saw Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis in concert and I just walked out of there thinking Why Bother? I’m not a jazz player on guitar and my piano chops are substantially better than my guitar chops, but “better” is relative in the context of Oscar Peterson.
My own piano background is my family got a piano when I was seven or so, my mother played, and I started playing by ear so fast my mother got me lessons after she taught me a simple piece. With a couple of short breaks I basically continued through high school with about a year of that - I think when I was about fourteen - with a jazz teacher, learning about things like how to syncopate. In college, I was fortunate enough to go somewhere with a good Conservatory of Music on the premises, so I auditioned for classical lessons with piano faculty and got it, plus I took a jazz improvisation course with the head of the program there, Wendell Logan. (One of my classmates got rich and built an entire building for the jazz program.) Since then at different times I’ve played different music, the only jazz (aside from some occasional solo cocktail style) being a year or two with a five piece with female vocal doing standards, nothing very far out. Hardly played out at all with them. Bass in that band was unfortunately electric. Trumpet, sax, drums. A singer. Me.
Thanks. I'm not a keyboard player but have been an Oscar Peterson fan for decades.
As for watching hands I also try to position my seating for the same. I've seen Kessel and Ellis ( had dinner with Kessel once and met Ellis ) and thought that even though my skill level wouldn't get there ( that's why they are known after all) it was still worth it to give it a try when I got home.
Re watching hands....
I learned the intro riff to Ray Charlse's "What'd I Say" as a continuing, or repeating, 'walking basss' progression played in the lower registers of a piano with the left hand... The guys in the Rock n Roll band I played in as a teenager loved me for my capacity to listen and duplicate or mimic material like that...
Then I went to see a Ray Charlse concert and got a perch in a spot where I could see the piano keyboard and his hands...
Then the much anticipated momentt came when he turned to an electric piano, the very same type of Wurlitzer electric piano that I had been playing with my band ...
And there he was for all to see. laying down the iconic riff to one of the greatest R&B songs of all times...
And to my shock and dismay, he was doing it with both hands...
The SOB was playing the riff I had practiced for months as a left hand bass run with TWO hands...
I still can't get over the fact that Ray Charles made mea better pianist by tricking me into doing something with my weaker left hand alone, that he was playing with BOTH HANDS....
Much easier to do when conceived and performed that way...
What kept me and my young ego in check was his performance of "Rock House" and "One Mint Julep"...
RE MY LIST...
It's Herbie Hancock...
AKA, I can’t get much speed on a guitar. Slow left hand that I’ve never been able to get beyond a certain point. I don’t mean I absolutely creep but I certainly couldn’t do bluegrass picking. Right hand way faster. Helps on piano.
"Right hand way faster..."
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