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Chicago Tribune: "'Oscar, With Love' celebrates Peterson's piano genius" Posted on 09 Apr 04:51

There's no shortage of concerts honoring past masters of jazz, simply because so many legends have left us in the past couple decades.

But the event that drew a large audience to Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Friday night stood apart from most such tributes, and not simply because of the marquee value of its performers.

For the American premiere of "Oscar, With Love" amounted to much more than just a salute to one of the most accomplished jazz musicians ever to place fingers on a keyboard. Like the landmark 2015 recording for which it was named, "Oscar, With Love" advanced and enriched our understanding of its singular subject.

To create the three-CD package, Kelly Peterson — the pianist's widow — invited formidable pianists with close ties to her husband to travel to the family's home outside Toronto. There they sat at Oscar Peterson's beloved Bosenderfor Imperial grand and recorded their interpretations of music written by the virtuoso himself.

For though Peterson, who died in 2007 at age 82, was celebrated around the world for his quicksilver piano technique and deep-swing aesthetic, the breadth of his work as composer was little-known. Imagine, then, hearing the likes of Michel Legrand, Ramsey Lewis, Kenny Barron, Renee Rosnes, Monty Alexander and others playing their responses to Peterson's compositions. In addition, a few pianists — including Chick Corea, Oliver Jones and Alexander — recorded works they'd penned as tributes to Peterson.

In December of 2015, several of the recording's pianists convened at Koerner Hall in Toronto to perform some of this music live, and for the first time since that world premiere another cast of pianists from the recording brought the venture to Orchestra Hall.

The very sight of an ebony, Bosendorfer grand sitting alone on that vast stage suggested the considerable potential of the evening, which met high expectations. For the occasion seemed to inspire some greatly skilled pianists to outdo themselves on Peterson's behalf.

Celine Peterson — Oscar and Kelly Peterson's daughter — served as the rare jazz emcee with something valuable to say, opening the night with reminiscences of her father as musician, educator, mentor and parent.

A microphone glitch prevented her from being heard from offstage introducing the second performer of the evening, Chicagoan Ramsey Lewis. So he simply appeared unannounced, promptly receiving a noisy ovation. On purely technical terms, this may have been a minor mistake. But so far as unplanned stagecraft goes, it was perfect, as if to say that Lewis needed no introduction in his hometown.

He immediately offered an exquisitely polished account of "If I Love Again," which he also performed on the recording. If Lewis' right-hand filigree and glistening keyboard runs attested to the debt both he and Peterson owed to piano colossus Art Tatum, the sensitivity of Lewis' touch and meticulousness of his keyboard attacks underscored how much Lewis learned from Peterson.

And not simply from a distance, for Lewis often played between sets when Peterson was the featured performer at Chicago's long-gone London House.

"It was like going to school every night for four hours," Lewis told the crowd.

Later in the evening, Lewis evoked the classical aspects of Peterson's art with "Laurentide Waltz" from Peterson's "Canadiana Suite," shades of Debussy and Ravel hovering over the tune's harmonies and Lewis' voicing of them.

Pianist Rosnes was the first of the evening to conjure the fiery, hard-swinging facet of Peterson's art in his "Bossa Beguine" (which Gerald Clayton played on the album). The combination of Rosnes' crystalline touch, buoyant rhythm and copiously inventive figurations — accompanied by bassist Dave Young — recalled Peterson's performance in this same room in 1997. Though playing four years after a stroke had diminished his use of his left hand, Peterson threw off lightning bolts with his right, producing more melodic strands, rhythmic energy and profusion of sound than one might have thought five fingers could achieve.

The evening's most poignant moment belonged to a surprise guest, Chicagoan Audrey Morris, who was one of Peterson's closest friends and a singer-pianist he greatly admired. At 88, Morris produced the same romantic pianism for which she long has been admired, her gentle and vulnerable vocals in "Look What You've Done to Me" (which she also performed on the recording) illuminating Peterson's high regard for her.

"Oscar Peterson," Morris told the crowd, "happens to be my idol."

The concert contained many memorable moments, among them Barron making a jazz lullaby of Peterson's "Ballad for Benny Carter"; Benny Green playing fast, fat chords with both hands in Peterson's "Cool Walk" and sounding magisterial in Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom"; Rosnes and Bill Charlap (who are married) playing four-hands piano robustly in Peterson's "Sushi"; Robi Botos digging deep into the keys in Botos' "Smedley's Attack"; and bassist Young playing his "Goodbye Old Friend," a profoundly lyrical solo tribute to Peterson, whom Young had helped lure back into performing after the pianist's stroke.

Though each of Peterson's compositions had its own message, most conveyed a degree of tenderness, gentleness and introspection that listeners might not have associated with a pianist of such towering presence.

"Oscar, With Love" provided many such insights, suggesting that Kelly Peterson — who appeared briefly on stage toward the evening's end — should take this production wherever she can. The world needs to hear it.

Howard Reich is a Chicago Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com


Howard Reich: "Ramsey Lewis, Benny Green and others will celebrate 'Oscar, With Love'" Posted on 05 Apr 04:52

It's difficult to overstate Oscar Peterson's importance as a jazz pianist, the wizardry of his technique matched by the exuberance of his approach to swing rhythm and the beauty of his keyboard touch.

But all that instrumental prowess overshadowed another facet of Peterson's art: the poetry of his original compositions.

That large — and still not fully charted — body of work received a major boost at the end of 2015, when Kelly Peterson, the virtuoso's widow, released the three-CD set "Oscar, With Love."

One of the best recordings of that year, "Oscar, With Love" was no mere compilation of tunes by Peterson, who died in 2007 at age 82. Instead, Kelly Peterson brought several of the world's foremost jazz pianists to the Peterson home in Canada to record the master's compositions on his beloved Bosendorfer Imperial grand.

Several of those pianists convened at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Dec. 11, 2015, for an "Oscar @ 90" concert, and several more will converge on Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on Friday evening, the first such performance since the launch.

"Oscar loved Chicago," says Peterson, explaining why she decided Chicago would be first to hear this music live.

"Oscar spent so much time performing there (in) the earlier years, when he played the London House, but then the years when he played at Ravinia. And I remember those years well, and the times being there with him, and how wonderful it was. And playing at Orchestra Hall, too."

Indeed, Peterson's ties to Chicago ran deep, which was no accident, for Peterson revered the city's long jazz history and deep pool of talent.

"Chicago is piano city, more so, in a lot of ways, than New York," the great pianist told me in 1990. "With people like Larry Novak, Ramsey (Lewis) and Audrey Morris, you've got the best people in the business right there. In fact, when we played Chicago in the '50s, I could almost tell you before any set who was going to be sitting where in the front row" at London House.

"The most important one of all, to me, was Audrey Morris," he added. "She was a big influence on me. Tune-wise, she's a walking musical encyclopedia, the Sylvia Syms of Chicago. … She'd say to me, 'You know, O.P., I think you've got the bridge to that tune wrong,' and sure enough, she'd be right. I'd never get to catch her wrong."

The allure of "Oscar, With Love" is that it shows what skilled pianists can do with songs as elegantly constructed as Peterson's. The lush pianism that Michel Legrand brought to Peterson's "Dream of Me," the delicacy of Benny Green's response to Peterson's "If You Only Knew" and the intensity of expression Renee Rosnes conjured in "Love Ballade" attested to the range of musical possibilities this work engenders.

Yet, as a whole, Peterson's originals convey a degree of understatement and contemplation that many listeners might not associate with a pianist as leonine as he.

What does Kelly Peterson hear when she listens to this music?

"I truly am transported back into the studio, with Oscar sitting at his synthesizer composing, or calling me into the room and saying: 'Come here, listen to this,'" she recalls.

"I hear the original. What I think the music tells us is: We can hear the depth of his emotion, that he could express so much musically, and I also think that we can hear the changes that happen throughout his life as he got older, and his music becomes more thoughtful or introspective.

"The earlier pieces, there's perhaps a different kind of fire in them. And I think it also shows his constant curiosity, because he's always looking for new ways to express himself musically, and new harmonies to provide. And his sheer joy at life and at music."

Kelly Peterson next will be taking "Oscar, With Love" to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in July and, one hopes, elsewhere throughout the jazz world. She's also working on the vinyl edition of the set and hopes to release a recording of music Oscar Peterson recorded on synthesizer.

And though Peterson devotees are already familiar with his "Nigerian Marketplace" and "Peace for South Africa," Kelly Peterson envisions a recording of the complete suite that yielded those movements, "Africa."

There's a great deal of Peterson's oeuvre, in other words, that the world has yet to hear. Meaning that even a jazz icon as celebrated as Peterson still has something new to say to us.

As for this second performance of "Oscar, With Love," the cast will feature pianists Kenny Barron, Robi Botos, Bill Charlap, Benny Green, Ramsey Lewis and Renee Rosnes, with Dave Young on bass and Celine Peterson (Oscar and Kelly Peterson's daughter) as narrator.

"I'm going to have a box of tissues," says Kelly Peterson. "I know that we will all feel his spirit."

And hear it.

Howard Reich is a Chicago Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com


New York Times: "Leading Jazz Pianists Pay Unique Tribute to Oscar Peterson" Posted on 23 Dec 08:58

The Bosendorfer Imperial grand piano in Oscar Peterson's home studio had hardly been played for years after the jazz legend's death in 2007. But the piano has gotten a workout over the past year as some of the world's greatest jazz pianists made the pilgrimage to the home in Mississauga, Ontario, at the invitation of Peterson's widow to record a one-of-a-kind tribute.

The piano will be played publicly for the first time at a concert Friday featuring some of the 16 pianists on the tribute at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall in Toronto. Peterson had handpicked the piano during a visit to the Bosendorfer factory in Vienna in 1981.

The concert, commemorating Peterson's 90th birthday, coincides with the release of the 3-CD collection, "Oscar, With Love," which includes 14 previously unrecorded Peterson compositions. Among the pianists who perform their own tunes dedicated to Peterson: Chick Corea, Oliver Jones, and Japan's Makoto Ozone and Hiromi.

Bill Charlap, one of the pianists who will perform at the concert, called Peterson a piano giant who combined "overwhelming virtuosity with depth and originality," but "made it seem effortless like Fred Astaire." Kenny Barron, who also will perform, said his fellow musicians gave Peterson the nickname Hercules because he could swing "so hard and strong and there was a lot of joy in his playing."

The pianist's widow, Kelly Peterson, says the seed for the tribute was planted three years ago when a Bosendorfer technician came to inspect the instrument and declared, "The piano needs to be played."

"I thought it would be wonderful to do a primarily solo piano recording of Oscar's compositions played on his own piano by artists who had a personal connection to him," said Peterson, who produced the record.

Early in his career, Peterson mostly played standards to honor his musical heroes like Duke Ellington. But he became a more prolific composer after a stroke and other ailments in the early '90s curtailed his touring and recording.

"It was joyful to hear Oscar's piano played and to witness the love coming from everyone," Peterson said in a telephone interview. "Often I was in tears because the last time I heard some of the compositions was when Oscar wrote them. ... I think we all felt Oscar's presence through every moment of this."

Ramsey Lewis didn't hesitate to accept the invitation to join the tribute. Lewis said he learned how to play jazz piano when he joined a dance band at age 15 by listening to Peterson's recordings and learned more when he opened for Peterson at Chicago's London House in the early '60s.

Gerald Clayton, one of the younger pianists on the tribute, said it was "surreal" to play along on his hero's piano while listening through iPod headphones to some of the Peterson recordings that inspired him to be a jazz pianist.

"To do that in that room on his piano with that energy around just felt like traveling to somewhere sacred," said Clayton.

And there's yet another tribute to Peterson: Bosendorfer is also releasing a limited run of Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Pianos equipped with Yamaha Disklavier E3 technology that reproduces 13 Peterson solo performances made in 1984.


Downbeat: "Oscar Peterson To Be Honored with New Box Set" Posted on 23 Dec 08:55

Oscar Peterson To Be Honored with New Box Set, Concert, Reproducing Piano
Posted 12/7/2015

To mark the 90th birthday (last August) of Oscar Peterson, the pianist’s widow, Kelly, is preparing to release the recording Oscar, With Love (Two Lions), which features world-class jazz pianists performing never-before-heard compositions by the master—on his own piano.

Oscar, With Love showcases Peterson (1925–2007) as a composer and includes the world premiere of numerous pieces he wrote but never recorded. The compositions were retrieved from Peterson’s library for the project. While the majority of the music on the recording was written by Peterson, a handful of tracks are songs written for him by some of his closest musical friends.

Pianists Ramsey Lewis, Michel Legrand, Chick Corea, Monty Alexander, Oliver Jones, Makoto Ozone, Renee Rosnes, Bill Charlap, Kenny Barron, Gerald Clayton, Benny Green, Hiromi, Justin Kauflin and Robi Botos made the recordings on Peterson’s personal Bösendorfer Imperial grand in his home studio in Mississauga, Ontario. Although primarily a solo piano recording, two of the performances feature the accompaniment of bassist Dave Young, Peterson’s longtime associate (Young also contributes a solo-bass performance). Other contributors to the project include pianist/vocalist Audrey Morris and pianist/producer Lance Anderson.

Oscar, With Love contains 36 tracks and includes about 180 minutes of music. It is set to be released on Dec. 11 in four distinct versions: a three-CD boxed set, a Deluxe Edition CD with a 100-page commemorative book, a five-LP Limited Edition Vinyl set (only 1,925 units made, in honor of the year of Peterson’s birth) and a Collector’s Edition that includes the commemorative book, a print of music in Peterson’s hand and an LP from Peterson’s personal library.

Its release will be celebrated that night with a sold-out “Oscar @ 90” concert at The Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall in Toronto at which Barron, Green, Clayton, Jones (accompanied by Young), Botos, Charlap and Rosnes will perform once again on Peterson’s prized Imperial Bösendorfer piano—which is being transported to the stage from the Peterson home for the occasion. It will be the first time the piano will be seen and heard publicly. Céline Peterson, daughter of Oscar and Kelly, will serve as host for the evening. The concert will be livestreamed (rcmusic.ca/livestream) for free starting at 8 p.m. EST on Dec. 11.

In addition, Bösendorfer will release a limited-run Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Piano equipped with Yamaha Disklavier E3 technology. Note-for-note, the instrument faithfully reproduces 13 Peterson piano performances originally captured during the ’70s using the Pianocorder Recording System from Superscope/Marantz. With the touch of a button, the piano’s keys and pedals come alive, moving up and down to recreate Peterson’s performances of “Tenderly,” “Take The ‘A’ Train,” “Lush Life,” “Back Home Again In Indiana,” “Who Can I Turn To,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “Body And Soul,” “Blues Of The Prairies,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Misty,” “A Time For Love,” “Old Folks” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.”

Only 12 of the reproducing pianos will be available for sale worldwide through official Bösendorfer dealers (at a list price of $189,999). The Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Piano will make its North American debut on Dec. 11 prior to the “Oscar @ 90” concert at Koerner Hall, where it will be on display in the lobby. The instrument’s U.S. release will take place during the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, in late January.

This fall, DownBeat spoke by phone with Kelly Peterson, who served as executive producer on theOscar, With Love project.

When did the recording sessions for Oscar, With Love take place?

Recording began in October of 2014. But I had begun speaking to the pianists a year-and-a-half before that. The whole point was they were all done here on Oscar’s piano in Oscar’s studio. I asked each pianist to record two songs. A couple of people recorded three songs because they included something that they had written for him. Chick Corea recorded just one that he wrote specifically for this project and specifically for Oscar. There are six tracks in the set that are not Oscar’s compositions.

That’s a lot of music to program. What was the thinking behind the way you sequenced the tracks?

This is a very new venture for me. So, I thought I’ll do it the way I feel and the way Oscar would do it. On the first disc, I wanted to have tracks by each of the artists if possible, so 14 of them are represented on that disc. And I was also trying to put the songs in an order where they would flow one into the other and tell a story.

The second disc is all ballads, because we had so many ballads, and rather than have them spread out, I thought it would be nice to put them on one disc. And the third disc is the one where there are some songs that were written by the artists for Oscar, and that disc leads off with Chick’s composition [“One For Oscar”].

And then the last six songs I was very specific with, starting with a piece that Monty wrote called “Trust,” which was always one of our favorite songs—not written specifically for Oscar, but one that we loved. Robi Botos wrote a piece called “Emmanuel” for Oscar; that came next. And then Audrey Morris, whose connection to Oscar was made at the London House in Chicago. They were best friends. Oscar used to call her his landlady, and she needed to be on this. So she’s the only vocalist, performing the only standard, and it’s the song he used to always ask her to play for him, “Look What You’ve Done To Me,” because it was a Nat [Cole] song. And then Dave with the bass solo, a song that Oscar wrote called “Goodbye, Old Friend.” And then Gerald Clayton performing “Hymn To Freedom.” I’m so excited at the way he performed it. Oscar always played it as the last song of a concert or an encore. I think it’s different than any way Oscar would have played it, but it is a definitive version of that song.

And the very last piece is one that Oscar told me was the most beautiful song he’d ever written, called “When Summer Comes.” So I planned the end that way specifically. I wanted those songs right there so that when you listen to all of them and you get that, it’s to tell the story. They needed to be in an order that makes sense in a way that Oscar might have programmed a concert.

What can listeners expect at the “Oscar @ 90” concert at Toronto’s Koerner Hall on Dec. 11?

The concert will be basically what the recording is—primarily solo. Renee and Bill did four-hands/one-piano for one of the songs, so we’ll do that. Dave will play with Oliver, and he’ll also play his lovely solo bass piece from the recording. And Koerner Hall is just a magnificent concert hall. It’s not very big, but it’s wood, and it’s beautiful, and the acoustics are perfect. I can’t wait to hear Oscar’s piano played in that hall. When we announced the concert, it was fun to tell the audience that there would be one artist making a debut on the Koerner Hall stage that night, and that’s Oscar’s piano. It’s the only time it’s every been seen or heard outside of our home. It’s been here since 1981.

How important was that instrument to Oscar?

Oscar selected it himself in Vienna. He went there, and they had perhaps 18 or 20 different pianos in the room. And they wanted him to try all of them. This was about the third or fourth one that he arrived at, and he said, “This is it.” And they said, “No, no, no, you have to keep trying all of the rest.” But he kept going back to this one.

It was the one that he really liked how it felt and how it sounded—the tone, the touch, everything. He finally said to them, “This is the one I want.” They found that interesting because there was a new technology at that time that they had never used on any other piano—it was like putting a “truth machine” on the piano for how it was voiced. So, it was voiced differently than any other piano at that time, and everything was exactly perfect and even. I don’t know the technical part of it, all I know is that Oscar always said it was the “truth machine” to make sure that the notes were just right, and that it has beautiful overtones. Plus, it’s an Imperial [model], which means that it has 97 keys. Oscar did use the extra octave, at the bass end of the piano, so they’re very low notes.

Oscar would always play an Imperial in concert as long as they could get one. And with those low notes, even if you don’t use them, you still get the resonance that comes from them. So it gives a whole different set of overtones when you play. It’s an incredible instrument, and his is really special in the sound and the touch of it. It is different.

Talk about Oscar Peterson the composer.

The reason I started to do this recording is because I know that people are not as aware of how much music he wrote. And I think it’s important for that part of his legacy to be more widely known, because he wrote an incredible amount of music and quite a variety of things.

For instance, “Hymn To Freedom,” his most iconic and widely known composition, is performed around the globe all the time still. He wrote that on a dare from Norman Granz in the recording studio. Norman would always sort of instigate. When they recorded the [1963] album Night Train, Norman said to Oscar, “You’re so big and bad, well, just write something right now.” And that’s what Oscar wrote. He wrote songs sometimes on the bandstand; just the melody would come to him. In a nightclub, in a concert, he would just start playing something, it was just in his head, and he would play it and then he would come of the stage and I’d say, “What was that one?” He’d say, “Oh, I just wrote that,” and he’d give it a title. And then he would come home and write it down or record it so it could be sent for copyright registration.

But often, most of the work was done in his studio. Especially with synthesizers, he would be inspired by the different sounds that he could create or play. He could write the bass part and put the drum track in; he could put strings in; he could put voices in; he could use the Japanese shakuhachi sound. He wrote a jazz ballet. He talked in concert in the late ’80s and early ’90s about his Suite For Africa that he was writing, and he performed a couple of parts from that. “Nigerian Marketplace” is one, and the song called “Peace For South Africa” is another, but the rest he didn’t record. I have all of that; his rough compositions of that here. But everything that he wrote, it’s very clearly Oscar. It feels like him, it sounds like him.

As we were doing this recording, I told some of the pianists, “I don’t want you to try to pay like Oscar. The intent is to play his music but with your voice.” And some of them said it was very hard because there’s so much Oscar in the music. So it all has incredible swing, incredible sensitivity and heart.

Is there any significance to the label name Two Lions Records?

I created a record label called Two Lions Records because, yes, it’s my intent to honor Oscar with this, but also to honor Norman as a record producer. I’m hoping to sort of carry on the legacy that he started with integrity and quality. Oscar and Norman were both Leos—that’s why I called it Two Lions. From the moment Oscar and Norman met, they became the closest of friends.

Norman was not only the record producer, but he was the impresario and he was Oscar’s manager until he retired. Their friendship was the closest you could imagine. And they had such deep love and respect for each other. They were both men of incredible integrity and ethics. They were both brilliant. Norman was as much a genius as Oscar. So they could challenge each other and converse. We didn’t see Norman for the last two or three years of his life. But Oscar and Norman talked on the telephone daily, between here and Geneva [Switzerland].

What was it like to hear Oscar’s performances played on the Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition piano?

It brought tears to my eyes pretty quickly with just a few notes. It’s really something. And those are pieces that he recorded on an early version of that kind of technology called the Pianocorder Reproducing System. He actually played the piano, and it recorded all of the notes that he played and the pedal action. So you see the pedals move and you see the keys move, and it’s pretty overwhelming to actually hear the piano playing rather than a recording. It’s exciting and very moving. And I can listen for a little while sometimes, and then sometimes I have to walk away.

But the best part of it that I loved was actually being able to sit on the piano bench or stand right there at the keyboard and hear what Oscar would have heard when he played. Because it’s different. I could sit in the wings or in the audience when he played, but I never sat on the piano bench with him during a concert. To have that sensation and to feel like I could feel him right there, it was really wonderful.

I understand the Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition piano will be making its North American debut at the Dec. 11 concert.

The instrument will be on display in the lobby at Koerner Hall. There will be a brief media event prior to the concert to demonstrate the piano. But the piano will be there for the audience afterwards, with representatives from Bösendorfer and Yamaha there.

Ed Enright

For more info on the Oscar, With Love project, clickhere. To view updates on Facebook, click here. To see and hear free livestreaming of the Dec. 11 “Oscar @ 90” concert, click here.


Howard Reich: "Oscar, With Love captures the essence of jazz giant Oscar Peterson" Posted on 27 Nov 03:02

Kelly Peterson, widow of the towering piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson, never imagined she would become a record producer.

But for years after her husband's death, in 2007 at age 82, she had been trying to think of ways to honor his legacy and share his compositions with the world. Everyone knew he ranked alongside Art Tatum as one of the supreme deities of the instrument, but his seemingly superhuman technique often overshadowed other aspects of his work — especially his composing.

So when a piano technician came to the Peterson home in the Toronto area a few years ago to tune her husband's Bösendorfer Imperial grand — with its 97 keys — lightning struck.

Three years later, to mark the master's 90th birthday (in August), she's about to release (on Dec. 11) "Oscar, With Love," an extraordinarily beautiful, three-CD set for which several of the world's greatest jazz pianists have recorded her husband's music on his Bösendorfer, in his home studio. The honor roll includes veterans such as Ramsey Lewis, Michel Legrand, Chick Corea, Monty Alexander and Kenny Barron as well as exceptional younger artists such as Gerald Clayton, Benny Green and Justin Kauflin (the latter best known for his starring role in the 2014 documentary film on Clark Terry, "Keep on Keepin' On").

Not that it was easy to round up all of these artists — most of whom tour the world relentlessly — and get them to the Petersons' home during select time slots. The process became a maze of scheduling, recording and producing.

"Had I expected all of this, I probably wouldn't have started," quips Kelly Peterson, speaking at the Royal Conservatory of Music in downtown Toronto. That's where an Oscar @ 90 concert will take place Dec. 11, in the conservatory's Koerner Hall, featuring several pianists from the recording.

Peterson said a record label embraced the idea, encouraging her to set to work on the project. Not surprisingly, the pianists she contacted were eager to sign on, so she began lining up dates for engineers and artists to converge on the family home during a 10-day period in October 2014.

However, the deal the record label finally proposed was "far below budget," she says, leaving her at a crossroads: Give up or forge ahead.

"So I said, 'Well, just do it,'" she remembers. "It's important, everybody is available. The serendipity of that was not lost on me: I'm supposed to do this."

Moreover, without the encumbrance of record-label restrictions, she could fashion the project in any way she wished and, better still, expand the roster of pianists. So the project snowballed, "Oscar, With Love" ultimately featuring 36 tracks, most composed by Oscar Peterson, several never recorded before and a few penned in homage to him by Corea, Alexander, Makoto Ozone, Oliver Jones and others.

One can only imagine how intimidating it must have been for any pianist, even those as accomplished as the ones Kelly Peterson convened, to sit at the great man's piano, surrounded by portraits of Duke Ellington, Tatum and Peterson himself.

"I walked into his house — and this is Oscar Peterson's house," recalls Lewis, the Chicago pianist who, like many other musicians, long revered Peterson.

"He's one of my main influences. So we went downstairs, and she says: 'Well, here's his piano.' And it was almost like: 'Do I touch it? Or should I touch it?'

"So I kind of had to walk around and digest this at first. Finally, I sat down at the piano, and I kind of just sat there for a few minutes before I touched it."

Unfortunately for Lewis, the Peterson compositions he'd planned to play had already been recorded by other pianists involved in the project. So Kelly Peterson looked around the house in search of other works, and Lewis picked Peterson's "If I Love Again" (never recorded).

The song proved so melodically strong and beautifully constructed that, in an earlier era, it might easily have become a jazz standard. That's still a possibility, considering the mercurial beauty of Lewis' version. By turns rhapsodic and contemplative, florid and spare, Lewis' account conveys a degree of spontaneity that perhaps would have been possible only under these unpredictable conditions.

"So now I'm playing on Oscar Peterson's piano, and now I'm playing some music of his that I've never heard before and never seen before, and it's being recorded — hello!" says Lewis, still somewhat incredulous about the whole scenario.

But this recording, which easily ranks among the best of the year, overflows with such indelible tracks. Legrand's lushly impressionistic pianism in Peterson's "Dream of Me" (also recorded here for the first time), Green's tenderness in Peterson's "If You Only Knew" and Renee Rosnes' Brahmsian ardor in "Love Ballade" express not only the gifts of the individual pianists but also the distinctive voice of the composer.

Listen to this set in its entirety and you get a sense that you're hearing the essence of Peterson, regardless of who's playing the piano. The poetry of his melodies and the questing nature of his harmonies reflect a decidedly introspective personality. To those who knew him, he was a warm, gentle soul (though occasionally volatile as well), generally as understated in conversation as he was leonine at the keyboard. Or, as Kelly Peterson put it, "He was a really shy person, believe it or not."

It seems fitting too that Kelly Peterson made Chicago an important part of the recording, not only via Lewis' two cuts but also through a haunting track by longtime Chicago artist and Oscar Peterson friend Audrey Morris, who sings and plays "Look What You've Done to Me."

"Chicago is piano city, more so, in a lot of ways, than New York," Oscar Peterson told me in 1990. "With people like Larry Novak, Ramsey [Lewis] and Audrey Morris, you've got the best people in the business right there. In fact, when we played Chicago in the '50s, I could almost tell you before any set who was going to be sitting where in the front row" of London House, where Peterson performed prolifically.

"The most important one of all to me was Audrey Morris. She was a big influence on me. Tune-wise, she's a walking musical encyclopedia, the Sylvia Syms of Chicago. … She'd say to me, 'You know, O.P., I think you've got the bridge to that tune wrong,' and sure enough, she'd be right. I'd never get to catch her wrong."

Bringing so many themes, compositions and pianists together for "Oscar, With Love" has consumed Kelly Peterson, who said she sometimes "would wake up in a cold sweat, filled with anxiety about what I was doing." But then "I would often get an incredible sense of calm and hear his voice saying, 'This is great, you've got this. And you're doing a good job, and I'm proud.'"

In further celebration of Oscar Peterson's 90th and the album's release, 12 Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Pianos will be going on sale, equipped with Yamaha Disklavier E3 technology that will reproduce Peterson's recordings of 13 compositions.

The entire venture, of course, has been an emotional one for Kelly Peterson, who began living with the pianist in 1986 and married him in 1990.

"I was with Oscar when he wrote most of those songs — a lot of the new songs, anyway," she says. "So sitting in the studio listening to everyone play his songs, I would often have tears. … It conjured up so many memories. It brought back so many moments of being with Oscar when he wrote this music.

"It brought me great joy to know that his music is being recorded."

Others are likely to feel the same.

"Oscar, With Love" is available for pre-order in deluxe and standard versions at oscarwithlove.com.

This review by Howard Reich (@howardreichappeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.


Full Track List Just Released! Posted on 13 Nov 14:47

Here is the full track list for Oscar, With Love!

Don't forget, our special fan pricing ends on December 11th, so be sure to get your orders in before that date!


André Watts Posted on 04 Sep 20:06

Oscar, With Love is a project that was born from love and admiration. Every artist that was invited to be on this recording was someone whom Oscar Peterson greatly respected and admired. We are sorry to announce that unfortunately one of these artists will be unable to record for this project. André Watts has been forced to cancel his recording session for personal health reasons. We are both very disappointed but very much look forward to the time when we will be able to work together on a future project. We send all our love and best wishes to André at this time and thank him for his incredible support of this project. - Kelly & Céline Peterson

 


More news from Oscar's Corner Posted on 28 Aug 17:00

Lovely coverage of the celebration of Oscar Peterson's 90th birthday, and more about Oscar, With Love. Read the article in the Ottawa Citizen here, and thanks to Peter Hum!

You can also watch this special birthday video:


Celebrating Oscar Peterson Posted on 28 Aug 15:07

From Canada's Globe & Mail:

After a music critic had requested an interview with Oscar Peterson, the great jazz pianist himself called the writer. “What’s your interest,” he asked straight away, “in talking to me?”

The writer answered that he was intrigued that Peterson had stuck with the piano while others had long switched over to electronic keyboards.

The reply was more than adequate; the writer was invited to Peterson’s home in Mississauga, where the musician’s Bosendorfer Imperial Grand enjoyed pride of place.

It still does. In fact, the instrument was used by Chick Corea, Monty Alexander, Benny Green and other ivory-striking luminaries on Oscar, With Love, a forthcoming tribute album.

Peterson would have turned 90 on Aug. 15, a date to be commemorated by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa with a concert on the corner of Elgin and Albert streets, in the melodious shadow of a life-sized Peterson effigy.

You can’t miss it: a wide-smiling man, seated at a bronze version of his cherished piano, in perpetuity.

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Some photos of the day:

Setting up for the celebration!

Oscar Peterson in bronze

Kelly Peterson celebrating, too.

Oscar in bronze watching the crowd!


Oscar, With Love Exclusive Listening Event Posted on 22 Aug 00:00

On August 19th, Kelly Peterson along with Rosemarie and Wayne Umetsu hosted the first official listening event for the highly anticipated upcoming release, Oscar, With Love

Guests were treated to a sneak preview of select tracks from the album as well as commentary from Kelly Peterson and music producer/artist, Lance Anderson. 

We'd like to thank our sponsors, Bang & Olufsen Yorkville and Stratus Vineyards, for their support of this special event. We'd also like to thank our photographer, Tracey Nolan Studios, for all the photos that evening. Lastly, a very special thank you to Rosemarie and Wayne Umetsu of Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu for all their hard work and endless support during this project. We had an incredible night!

The guests at the event were all very excited to hear the music, and enthusiastic about pre-ordering. We are happy to share a few photos of the event with you. You can hear samples of the music by going to the Listen page. 

Please follow us on Facebook/Oscar Peterson Music for more updates, and perhaps some further opportunities for sneak previews.

 

      

Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    

Kelly Peterson introducing the music.

 

Lance Anderson, Music Producer and Pianist.