Opportunity to pay tribute to mentor and Canadian musical legend

Egbert Gaye

In the 76 years that he’s been on the circuit, Dr. Oliver Jones has played hundreds of thousands of concerts, crisscrossing the globe many times and dazzling audiences on every continent.
If there was one concert that touched him personally, it was the evening of  July 10,  2004,  the closing concert of the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
That evening, Jones shared the stage with the man who he says had a big influence on his career and success, Oscar Peterson.
It was the first time in both their long and spectacular careers that the two Montrealers would play together. Sadly, it was also the last.
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was born in St. Henri on August 15, 1925 and grew to be Canada’s preeminent Jazz pianist and composer.
In a career that spanned more than 60 years, he released more than 200 recordings and earned eight Grammys.
As a composer, he wrote dozens of instrumentals and songs. “Hymn to Freedom” and “Canadiana Suite” stand out as his best-known compositions.
In 1972, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (the country’s highest civilian state honour for talent and service). In 1984 he was promoted to Companion of the Order (the highest degree of merit and humanity).
Among the many landmarks that bear his name across Canada, Concordia University named its concert hall and performing arts venue, on Loyola Campus after Peterson.
He died on December 23, 2007 at the age of 82.
Jones knows too well the impact Peterson had on his and other careers.
“I lived 15 doors away from Oscar and his family on Fulford Street in St. Henri and spent many nights on his doorstep listening to him play. I learned a lot. Also, he has opened many doors for me and other Canadian pianists.
That’s why he says that night on stage at Place des Arts with Peterson remains one of his most cherished moments.
“It was just a wonderful opportunity for me to share the stage with my mentor,” Jones told the CONTACT in a telephone interview from his home in Florida. “In fact, I was retired at the time and doing quite well, but couldn’t pass up the chance to join Oscar on stage.”
At the time, Jones was four and a half years into what was a fairly satisfying retirement. But it was Peterson who reminded him that:  “‘Jazz pianists don’t retire. And, as a matter of fact, you’re ten years younger than me.’”
So Jones broke his retirement and enjoyed the most satisfying experience of his career on stage with Canada’s legendary pianist.
On November 19, Jones will have another chance to pay tribute to his friend and homeboy with a grand concert at the Oscar Peterson Hall on Thursday, November 19, to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of Peterson’s life.
The concert is tagged: “Call Me Ollie” and Jones says it comes with special attachments, the proceeds from this concert will go directly to Union United Church to rebuild the Manse which is just next to the church. It also happens to be the house where Oscar was born.
“Also, it’s an opportunity for me to do a full concert for the first time at this venue named after Oscar and playing only his music.”
He added that he is also looking forward to sharing the stage with two of his favorite local performers, pianist Daniel Clarke Bouchard and singer Wendy Davidson of Union United.”
He is also looking forward to being in Toronto in December where he will participate in the launch of a CD of Peterson’s music performed by 16 of the top Jazz pianists from around the world.
The music was recorded at Peterson’s home in Mississauga, Ontario, with pianists playing on his famed Bosendorfer piano.
For the 81-years-old Jones, the joy of playing still remains seven and a half decades later, but it’s increasingly difficult to maintain the hectic schedule of the international circuit.
This past February, he was preparing for one of his occasional trips to Barbados when he was felled by a massive heart attack. Over the past couple years his family has been encouraging him to retire.
So he says the time has come. This will be his last full year of performance and he will retire at the end of 2016.
“Call me Ollie.” Oliver Jones and his Trio play Oscar Peterson at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, Loyola Campus, 7141 Sherbrooke Street, NDG, Montreal, on Thursday, November 19. Special guest artistes Daniel Clarke Bouchard and Wendy Davidson.
Doors 8:00 PM. Tickets: 1-855-790-1245.