Weekend Extra: Peterson and Cavett

Not that I’d dream of turning Rifftides into an educational institution, but here’s a chance to learn from a great pianist as he plays and talks about his music. Over the years, Dick Cavett has hosted his show on six networks. These two clips come from his period with the Public Broadcasting Service, 1977-1982, long before PBS began dumbing down its prime time programming with vapid fund-raising specials. But I digress.

Here, Cavett’s guest was Oscar Peterson (1925-2007). The first video recently showed up on the web and has been seen by few viewers. It is of marginal video quality but acceptable in the audio department. It has the standard promotional sildes with which Pedro Mendes starts and ends all of the videos he puts up. But who’s complaining; he puts them up. The second clip—crisp and clear—is a YouTube hit seen by more than 140,000 surfers. It continues the conversation. This is OP with Cavett in 1979.

Have a good weekend.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. says

    DR (I assume there’s one in the house), by a possibly odd coincidence, two days ago in a comment sent to a UK site devoted to War Poetry (mostly of the two WW’s) I too used that wryly transitional phrase “But I digress.” Seeing it in your piece re: OP on DC catalyzes me to ask: do you know the source for those words? (I don’t.) Could be anyone from the real WS (whichever obscure 16th century gent that might be) to your punned-it pal PD–or even, perchance, the other, more ubiquitous P.D.

    I’m reminded of the Jazz pianist who, when asked if he would like a drink, answered, “No… But I digress.”

    • Doug Ramsey says

      The origin of “But I digress” remains murky, at least for me. It doesn’t show up in any of the standard references—Bernstein, Ciardi, Fowler, Sisson, et al. Googling led to two guesses. From someone who identifies himself as “Don’t Ask” on a website called The Straight Dope:

      It is attributed to US comic author Max Schulman (Dobie Gillis, Rally Round The Flag Boys, The Tender Trap) in cigarette advertisements of the 1950s.

      From “Telemark” in the same forum:

      It is used by Tom Lehrer in the song “In Old Mexico”, which was recorded in 1959.

      I am reasonably sure that it isn’t from Shakespeare. Maybe someone in the Rifftides readership can tell us where it originated.

  2. Ken Dryden says

    Thanks for sharing the links to Oscar Peterson’s appearance on Dick Cavett’s program.

    Oscar Peterson hosted a CBC TV series for a time in Canada that was rebroadcast on A&E in the mid-1980s. He would usually play an introductory number with his trio (Ray Brown and Bobby Durham), then bring out his guest. Inevitably the show ended with an uptempo blues, which A&E would ruin with a voiceover loudly stating, “Stay tuned for Beau Bridges in ‘United States,’ coming up next.” Oscar roared when during a 2002 phone interview I told of my anger at A&E for the idiotic interruption.

  3. says

    I love the Cavett/Oscar Peterson video(s) and so glad you brought it to the attention of jazz fans. Reading your column reminded me of another fantastic video—it is on YouTube—Oscar and Andre Previn, talking, playing and providing both fans and musicians with priceless wisdom and joy. Have you listened to/viewed this?

    • Doug Ramsey says

      Yes, I’ve watched it more than once in segments on YouTube, which is evidently the only way it can be viewed. There are seven clips in all. In some of them the sound and picture are badly out of synchronization and in one there are drastic audio and video dropouts. Still, the conversation between Previn and Peterson, and the playing by both, make weathering the technical storms more than worthwhile. The 65-minute program was broadcast on BBC Four Omnibus in 1974. Evidently, it last ran in Britain in 2009 and has never been issued as a DVD. Pity.