Aspects of Oscar

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Almost one year ago, I attended the announcement for The Royal Conservatory's 2010/2011 concert series. I knew that Mervon Mehta had been working with my Mom to put together some tribute concerts for my Dad, but I did not know who would be coming. I was late, so I ended up sitting on one of the platforms where they had the lights and recording equipment set up. I listened to them announce very interesting concerts and events such as Savion Glover, Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel J. Levitin, and more. Then, Mervon started to speak about the series that would be called "Aspects of Oscar". Over the next ten or so minutes, he would mention the names of people like Dave Young, Ulf Wakenius, Benny Green, Roy Hargrove, and Monty Alexander. I could not believe what I was hearing. McCoy Tyner, Christian McBride, Roberta Gambarini, Robi Botos, Reg Schwager, Hassan Shakur, and Kevin Turcotte. All people that I was very familiar with and some who I call my friends. I walked out of the building that day knowing that something spectacular was about to happen.

The first concert took place in October 2010. Dave Young would bring us "Aspects of Oscar: Oscar's Songbooks".  Dave would bring together Robi Botos, Kevin Turcotte, Reg Schwager, and Terry Clark as well as a guest appearance by Carol Welsman. I have seen Dave perform many times and with various people in his group. Also of course when he performed with Dad. This particular night was special. Watching Dave play songs that either Dad wrote or performed often, but with Dave's touch on them, was magical. As a musician, being able to pay tribute to someone by playing songs they wrote or were known for, is quite the task. The specific need to play what the original artist intended, while still putting your own touch on it, is almost impossible. Dave Young accomplished this that evening. My favourite that evening was "When Summer Comes". I had heard Kevin Turcotte a few times before, and knew he was a fantastic player. However, that song had never been played with a trumpet playing the melody before. Kevin made me look at the song in an entirely new light. I had heard it sung before when Diana Krall sang it at Dad's 80th birthday after Elvis Costello wrote those beautiful lyrics. I had tears in my eyes immediately when Kevin got started. By the time the song was over, I was so overcome with happiness, and a sense of comfort. I was comforted seeing these men on stage pouring all the passion, effort, and love that they have, into this music. When they perform, the sparkle in their eyes and the wide smiles are unmistakeable. That is the way music should be played.

Another moving and special moment for me during this series, was when Monty Alexander came out after his first encore. He came out by himself, sat down at the piano and began playing Hymn To Freedom and No Woman No Cry as a medley. Chills instantly ran down my spine and I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. It was then that I realized, even though these were not sad tears, it was not a time to cry. This was a purely joyful experience, and what he was playing deserved a smile and a warm heart. Collecting myself and moving so slowly I was barely breathing, I sat there and listened as he closed the show in a way no one who was there will ever forget. It was the most perfect way to end an evening.

Tonight was the final Aspects of Oscar show. Roy Hargrove was headlining. With him, he brought Ralph Moore, Willie Jones III, Christian McBride, George Cables, and vocalist, Roberta Gambarini. Roy and Ralph had done an album with Dad in1996 entitled "Oscar Peterson Meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore". Niels Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Lewis Nash were also on the album. Roy Hargrove (in my opinion) is one of the most beautiful horn players not only today, but that we have ever seen. He has accomplished so much in his life musically, and he is still quite young. I did not know what he would play, but I did know that this was a spectacular way to end the series. The day came, and the show was sold out. Not one seat was available for sale, and what's more, is that every single person who had a ticket showed up. There was not one available seat in Koerner Hall. One of my friends was approached twice and asked if she would sell her ticket! People wanted to see this show. Of course, Roy and everyone on stage with him delivered a beautiful and unforgettable performance. However, there was a bonus at the end. The surprise was that John Q. Walker and Zenph Sound Innovations had prepared a special performance previewing their recordings on the Yamaha Disklavier Pro piano. There is no other way to put this other than to say exactly what happened after Roy walked off stage. The piano was brought center-stage, the spotlight directed right on the keys, and Oscar Peterson played his signature Duke Ellington Medley. If you are unfamiliar with what it is that Zenph has accomplished, please visit their website. They have created a re-performance of Oscar's recordings, and the piano plays the music, live in the hall. To say I was shocked, is in no way enough to describe the countless feelings that I was having. Dad was in the building. The energy was undeniable, and if you closed your eyes, it was as if he was sitting on stage himself. I don't believe there is one person in there who did not appreciate the value of what they just witnessed. It was truly unforgettable.

I took something away from each concert in the series. I felt like I learned something different on each night. I met a lot of wonderful new people. Not just musicians, but people who came to enjoy the series because they loved Dad and this music. It is true, that everybody is different. However, when something as emotional and personal as a show like this is the subject, everyone in the building becomes somewhat the same. You're all music lovers enjoying the same experience even though what you may be thinking or feeling is different than the person sitting next to you. Over these last few months at these concerts, people came together to laugh, cry, listen, and cheer. A bond was built, and history was made. What Mervon Mehta accomplished is dazzling and to me, legendary. It will not be matched, and it will never be forgotten. I was reunited with friends who I consider family, and each night I was able to experience the magic with people that I love.

All I have to say is, thank you, and I will be changed for the better.

"For the past little while, I've shared my life with you. And for some, the name Oscar Peterson will always just mean music. But I would like to leave you with this thought: When you hear the name Oscar Peterson, certainly think music. But think of my music as a universal language. A language we have learned to appreciate regardless of it's origin. I have never found it difficult to accept human beings on those same terms, so perhaps my music can do that for you. An appreciation. No - a celebration of who we are. Not as a colour, not as a gender, not even as a culture. As beings, who to me, are simple melodies, in search of harmony. When they work together, well, that's music to my ears." --Oscar Peterson, 1991

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