Q

Jazz pianist Oliver Jones looks back on his 77 year career

Jazz pianist and composer Oliver Jones reflects on his early beginnings, the state of Canadian jazz, and his forthcoming retirement.
Oliver Jones performs in the q music studio. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

Originally published on November 30, 2016

"It's been 77 years and I guess that's more than enough time working any job, but it's always been my contention I should play until that feeling is gone but the feeling is still there," says jazz pianist Oliver Jones on his forthcoming retirement. Jones says he still plans on performing a few times a year but he can no longer play at the same capacity, especially after his triple bypass surgery last year.

Jazz pianist Oliver Jones through the ages. (CBC Still Photo Collection, Fred Phipps/Cathy Irving)

Jones has been performing since he was five years old and his first performance was at Montreal's oldest Black congregation, Union United Church. He remembers seeing Oscar Peterson play there. "Our church always had a lot of very talented people," explains Jones, "it was a wonderful environment for me to grow up in."

Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones at the Montreal International Jazz Festival - The closing concert of the 25th Anniversary of the Festival featuring two native sons and their trios. Although Oliver went into retirement in the year 2000, he nonetheless accepted this invitation to share the bill for this occasion with old friend Oscar Peterson. So there's a good chance they'll be talking about this performance 25 years from now. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

Jones is from Montreal's Little Burgundy, a Canadian jazz hotbed. He says when Black entertainers came in from the US they would stay in the area and play clubs like the Rockhead's Paradise because that is where the majority of Montreal's Black population lived.  "I would sneak in the back door to try to listen to some music," Jones admits, "because back then that truly was the classroom if you wanted to learn jazz."

Oliver Jones and Tom Power in the q music studio. (Cathy Irving/CBC)

Now he enjoys half the year in Florida playing golf and watching sports and he says that will keep him going for a while.

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