Only twelve notes that a man can play

Courtesy of Kyle Gann, four minutes of Oscar Peterson playing an eight-bar blues of Lisztian transcendence. Jesus mercy.

Two of my heroes when I was a kid were Peterson, for reasons obvious to anyone who remembers what it’s like to be a beginning pianist, and my dad, for (among other things) looking the other way when I essentially appropriated all of his Oscar Peterson records and played the hell out of them. He and my mom saw the man himself a few times when he would make periodic appearances at the London House in Chicago. I’m jealous.


  1. It is a 12-bar blues (for the most part) but Peterson calls it “Eight-Bar Blues Boogie,” which I assume refers to the eight-to-the-bar rhythm. So I went with him. (I had heard this shorthand before—I never noticed how confusing it might be until you pointed it out.) Interestingly, once he gets going, he does start doing cool things with shifting the bass around the V-I turnaround to make you think that he might be going into a 16-bar blues, but never does.


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