• Bourne's Montreal: Zeus Enjoys The Godfather

    July 8, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Cinquieme Salle is a lovely concert hall in Montreal's Place des Arts. I'd never been there since a renovation installed the loveliness. I was late when French pianist Thomas Enhco was playing the "Fifth."

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    I was limping, and the usher pointed me to a door near the entrance. He pushed a large button with a disabled icon, and a door mechanically opened.

    Behind the door was a chair on a small balcony, high above the highest row of seats. I could see and hear everything curiously intimately from high above. I felt like Zeus looking down.

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    I asked and was welcomed back to the Olympic aerie for a piano recital of Oliver Jones, long-time godfather of Montreal jazz and one of the sweetest cats anywhere.

    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    When he was a kid, growing up in the black neighborhood called Little Burgundy, instead of playing ball, he'd listen to Oscar Peterson practicing at the piano. Oscar's teacher, his sister Daisy, became Oliver's teacher, and Daisy's piano is now an artifact in the FIJM museum.

    Oscar became one of the biggest international jazz stars. Oliver stayed and played closer to home. When the festival in 1989 established the Oscar Peterson Award to honor a Canadian jazz musician, Oscar himself was the first to be honored, and Oliver was the second.

    Oscar Peterson Oliver Jones

    No other concert could have better celebrated the jazzfest's 25th anniversary than the duet concert of Oscar and Oliver in 2004.

    I was there that night, and in 2000 I was there when Oliver played his retirement "farewell" concert, an evening of piano solos. After a charming recital, he thanked everyone for his career. And played about a dozen requests.

    Oliver's retirement did not last long, and he's played concerts most of the last dozen years. Usually he's played with his trio, but this year at the Cinquieme he was alone at the piano.

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    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

    "It Could Happen To You," played in and around the melody, was the first of so many favorite tunes he's been playing his entire life at the piano.

    An inevitable highlight was a medley of Duke Ellington classics. An inevitable climax was the heart-lifting spirit of Oscar's "Hymn to Freedom."

    "Next year I'll be 80," said Oliver Jones, not retiring anymore. "I hope I can play for you again."

    I hope Zeus can be there to enjoy him again.

    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich
    Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich

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