Oscar Peterson: Black+White – TIFF21


Oscar Peterson: Black+White – TIFF21

A celebration of the life and work of legendary Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

Table of Contents

Tribute is paid to one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time in . Born in Montreal in 1925, Oscar Peterson first rose to prominence in the 1940s and would soon be simply described as the best jazz pianist in the world, with his ability to play at incredibly high tempos. Highlights over the course of Oscar Peterson's nearly six-decade-long career included performing with Norman Granz's philharmonic, writing “Hymn to Freedom,” which would become known as the anthem of the civil rights movement, and receiving the Order of Canada in 1984.

Oscar Peterson: Black+White is a documentary by Barry Avrich (David Foster: Off the Record), which is a combination of a typical musical biography with a performance film featuring artists such as Denzal Sinclaire, Joe Seary, Jackie Richardson, and Robi Botos playing Oscar Peterson's most notable songs. The documentary features interviews with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, and recent Oscar-winner Jon Batiste, along with the use of archival footage, featuring Oscar Peterson telling his own story in his own words.

I'm going to begin with getting the most obvious criticism of Oscar Peterson: Black+White out of the way, in how it's a white filmmaker telling Oscar Peterson's story. While I'm sure some will have issues with this, I'm going to excuse it if only for the fact that Barry Avrich is one of the most prominent documentarians in Canada. As someone with minimal knowledge of Oscar Peterson going in, I can say that Oscar Peterson: Black+White ends up being a satisfactory mix of biography and performance. While the film could've dealt a bit more with the man behind the music, this is a film that should satisfy fans of the jazz legend.

Oscar Peterson: Black+White is screening as part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

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Trailer for Oscar Peterson: Black+White – TIFF21

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.