Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oscar Peterson: in Memoriam, part II

Bebop was born the way two spies take their half-torn piece of papers and join them in a dark alley. Dizzy Gillespie worked out the harmony, a new harmony that appeared complex but in actuality it made the flow of soloing much easier. The problem was the phrasing, and Charlie Parker had that. Together the code made sense, and new songs, previously inconceivable songs were born. Old songs became much better, had more energy, flowed like a steep mountain stream. Underneath this movement, Oscar Peterson was doing similar and marvelous things with swing, indescribable things that would never lead to tunes entitled Locrianitude. That is, what Peterson was doing could not be taught. For Oscar Peterson, jazz time, swing was the real time--that thing the clock does, just an illusion. Time is emotion and soul, time comes from this well of music within us, and time was something you feel, not count. Time had more qualities than quantity, and if you strike time just right, the way a diamond cutter strikes that dull rock, you get something priceless. Oscar Peterson knew just how to treat time, and as most other musicians could only produce a static shock, Peterson produced another kind of static shock--lightning. He knew when to play quickly, slowly, when to turn to chords. When trumps what. Here's another 9, and if you are a musician, when Oscar says when, then when is when. It's how to play.

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