‘Oscar Peterson: Black + White’ Review: Never Mind the Talking Heads

‘Oscar Peterson: Black + White’ Assessment: By no means Thoughts the Speaking Heads

At one in level in “Oscar Peterson: Black + White,” Barry Avrich’s documentary concerning the Canadian jazz pianist, Billy Joel is raving concerning the pace of Peterson’s palms on the piano. “You’d attempt to watch what he was doing,” he defined, “however it’s a blur.”

True sufficient, however fully redundant: We’re already watching Peterson’s palms flash throughout the keys, within the crisp archival live performance footage Joel is speaking over. The breathless reward provides nothing; the truth is, it distracts from the pleasure of seeing a jazz nice carry out. As a recent viral tweet skewering this music-doc convention sarcastically identified, we don’t want a bunch of interviews with specialists “to place the band in historic context.” Seeing Peterson play is greater than sufficient.

“Black + White” does characteristic loads of Peterson’s music, together with a number of cowl renditions carried out in tribute for the movie by a up to date ensemble. However at nearly each alternative, Avrich undermines these numbers by reducing to one in every of an countless lineup of speaking heads, often to repeat predictable platitudes about Peterson’s brilliance. The footage of Peterson at work is an infinitely higher testomony to that brilliance than phrases of admiration from artists he influenced. What’s extra, the relevance of the interviewees varies wildly. Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock are comprehensible. But when, like me, you marvel why we’re listening to a lot from Randy Lennox, a fairly nondescript company media govt, keep by way of the credit: he’s one of many movie’s producers. If you happen to don’t already consider Oscar Peterson was a genius, I doubt he’ll be the one to persuade you.

Oscar Peterson: Black + White
Not rated. Working time: 1 hour 21 minutes. Watch on Hulu.

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