021398 Oliver Jones/George Shearing, Ottawa, ON

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Oh, how I wish this ticket was as it appears to be!  

I can’t tell you how excited I was to have bought a ticket to see my jazz hero, the great, incomparable Oscar Peterson, at a Valentine’s Day show (almost) right at home at the National Arts Centre!  And box seats no less!  I was dancing on the ceiling, until…

…Oscar cancelled.  I was crestfallen  And can you believe the NAC offered absolutely no refunds or exchanges?!?  They simply replaced Oscar with Oliver Jones and paired him up with George Shearing.  I suppose they thought nobody would notice if they simply replaced one rotund Montreal-born jazz pianist with another and just threw in an old white guy on the side?  I was appalled that the ticket to see my 88-key hero had been tragically transformed into a ticket for who I saw as a mere shadow of Oscar’s talent (and a man who was quickly becoming a personal enemy of mine), and I was pretty much unfamiliar with George Shearing aside from his name so he added little comfort.

I’d like to say I gave the show a fair chance but in all honesty I watched the concert under protest, begrudgingly unfolding my crossed arms and clapping after every frustratingly brilliant display of jazz acrobatics.  My seat up in the box was really quite spectacular, affording an excellent bird’s-eye view of the two Steinway grand pianos pushed head-to-head at the front of the stage.  My nemesis Oliver Jones (he did prevent me from meeting Oscar Peterson several years before in Montreal after all) was facing me, his eyes closed and head rolled back for most of the evening, while the wonderful (it turns out) George Shearing typed away at his rich chords all night with his back to me, just a couple of dozen feet away.

And as bitter as I tried to remain, I really enjoyed the concert despite myself.  Sure, these guys were no Oscar Petersons, but they could play, and sitting up there sharing the best box in the house with my Valentine and a couple of good friends made it that much more memorable.  

But oh, how much sweeter February 13th, 1998 could have been.  Just looking at this ticket stub makes me feel physical pain.

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