Canada’s greatest repertoire cinema hosted a double feature kick off to this year’s Montreal Jazzfest. The main film was Chasing Trane a documentary on legendary jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane. The film is directed by John Scheinfeld, best known for his documentary the People vs John Lennon.
The first film of the night was, Oscar, about Montreal pianist and jazz legend, Oscar Peterson, directed by award winning Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, who was in attendance. Oscar’s daughter, Celine Peterson, did a brief Q&A with host, Pat Dillon – Moore. However the real treat was having Celine’s godfather in the audience who just happened to be another legend, local Montrealer and jazz pianist, Oliver Jones. What a way to celebrate early for Canada day. I was fortunate enough to ask a question which got Oliver Jones himself to join in on the Q&A here’s the transcript of what happened.
Ron : Celine, what was the best memory of your father, Oscar Peterson both personally and musically.
Celine Peterson : Musically, it’s easy. I’d have to say watching dad and Ollie (Oliver Jones) play together at the Montreal jazzfest in 2004 and that was really the first time the two of them shared a stage together, right?
She then verified this with Oliver Jones in the audience and invited him to come up on stage which he did to an applauding crowd.
Celine Peterson : You can actually see the footage of that performance on the Oscar Peterson Facebook page. You can see the love and emotion that was in both their eyes that night. Dad was crying, I was crying backstage. It was very special. Musically, that was a big memory for me.
Personally, I’d have to say knowing how hard it was for him to be out in public I appreciated it every time he came out to something I was doing even if it was a school concert. That had to be excruciatingly painful to watch a bunch of little kids not sing in key (laughing) at all. He really wanted to be there for those kind of events and be there for me and that means a lot to me now.
At this time Celine handed Oliver Jones the microphone.
Oliver Jones : Thank you. I think the most important thing was watching Oscar with the six first children and then seeing him romping on the floor with Celine. it seemed he had gotten to a point where he was just enjoying his life finally. His wife, Kelly and Celine had seemed to make such a difference in his life.
As far as playing with Oscar for the first time well like every other pianist we were frightened to go on stage together. I told him “I’ll only play with you if you use your thumbs.” (Laughing) I said “That will make it a little even.” At the that time he was just coming back and playing with just the one hand and of course his one hand seemed to play better than three by any normal pianist.
It’s funny because I’ve played with people like Dave Brubeck and others and that was the first time I got to share the stage with Oscar. it was a little different because he was someone who I saw everyday as a youngster, but I knew he took no prisoners and when he got on that piano, he dominated the piano. it was a wonderful experience for me to watch him.
The very first time I ever saw Oscar play I was five years old. I don’t think i have ever seen anyone dominate the piano the way he did. I have to say he was the most disciplined pianist, it didn’t matter if it was classical or jazz. That more than anything made me understand that it was a lot of work to go into it. He was the best mentor I ever had or needed. That is why I’m so happy to be able to share this with Celine. Merci.
Oscar had its world premiere at the LA Shorts Fest in 2016. It received the Audience Choice award (Program A) at the New York City Short Film Festival and the Animation award at the Yorkton Film Festival in Saskatchewan. The film has been screened at a number of festivals in Canada, Europe, Asia and the United States and was nominated for the best animated short film award at the 2016 Gala du cinéma québécois.
Oscar blends animated sequences and archival footage in its touching portrait of virtuoso pianist Oscar Peterson at the twilight of an exceptional career, as he wistfully meditates on the price of fame and the impact of the artist’s life on relationships with family members. From his beginnings as a young prodigy in Montreal’s Little Burgundy district to his triumphs on the international stage, this animated documentary explores the profound solitude of an artist constantly on tour. Set to the tunes of Peterson’s sometimes catchy, sometimes melancholic compositions, the film tells a heartfelt story about a life in jazz.
Make sure to watch the film, Oscar at www.nfb.ca
I would like to say a personal and big “Thank you” to Oliver Jones, Celine Peterson, Pat Dillon Moore, Montreal Jazzfest and Cinema Du Parc for an unforgettable evening.
Chasing Trane was a very deep introspective into the life and music of one of the top legendary names in jazz, John Coltrane. Since Coltrane had never really given an on camera interview Sheinfeld has Academy award winning actor, Denzel Washington portray the voice of Coltrane and it works so well you think it’s Coltrane talking. The mixture of film clips, photographs, music and personal life of Coltrane is very well blended together to complete the full puzzle of why John was not just one steps but leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else. Which is why he left Miles Davis’ band for the second time. it was because Coltrane felt he didn’t belong there. he needed to be doing his own thing completely. That completeness had to do with his own spirituality and understanding of God. Interesting footage comes about Coltrane’s biggest fan/collector who lives in Japan, Mr. Fuji. There’s great interviews with former band members and others such as Bill Clinton, John Densmore, Carlos Santana and Wynton Marsalis. After this film the only thing you’ll be chasing is your way to the nearest record store, yes a record store to buy some John Coltrane. This film was certainly, a love supreme.
Chasing Trane The John Coltrane documentary is playing at Cinema Du Parc until July 8th.