I've been on an Oscar Peterson kick since I was 15 years old. It was a visit to Woolworth's Five & Dime store and an EP that included Oscar's take on The Shiek of Araby recorded in 1953 when Oscar was 28 that left me breathless and wounded. First, there's the fantastic left-handed boogie-woogie that rolls along like a chugging steam engine. Secondly, an awareness, I'd never play that fast or jazz wild. Yet, I never gave up.
Oscar Peterson Black+White captures the gift we, as fans, are most intrigued by; those magnificent hands. The Peterson proceeds like a minister, gripping the pulpit and testifying at will. Unrepentant and self-assured. It's a sing-song message punctuated with blue notes, staccato rhythm, shout choruses and heavy-footed stomps. It's a youthful Oscar Peterson documented on film from many hours of scouring the world for lost footage.
Black + White is a loving portrait of a musician who was not only a player of spectacular qualities but a human being confronting the ills of racial discrimination, threats and marginalization and raising a family from a distance, living the life of a road warrior. Peterson is generous, caring, and truly invested in his side musicians.
Oscar Black + White features interviews and performances of his music by figures including Billy Joel, Jon Batiste, Quincy Jones, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Dave Young, Larnell Lewis, Jackie Richardson, Joe Sealy, Measha Brueggergosman, Denzal Sinclaire and Robi Botos.
I spoke with producer/director Barry Avrich and producer/curator Mark Selby about the behind-the-scenes workings and motivation in the wake of the documentary for this week's FYIMusicNews podcast.
Distributed in Canada by Bell Media as a Crave Original, and internationally by Fremantle Media.
Oscar Peterson Black + White is now playing on Crave!
Producer & Director Bios
Mark Selby, a two-time Canadian Screen Award-nominated producer specializing in live, long-form comedy and variety and documentary production for broadcast, digital media, and live events, focuses on collaborations with high-profile talent.
Recent credits include Oscar Peterson: Black + White, a new feature documentary from Barry Avrich for Bell Media, which had its World Premiere screening at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival, and the critically-acclaimed documentary Howie Mandel: But Enough About Me, now showing on Crave (Canada), Peacock (USA), and at over three dozen film festivals around the world. Fall 2021 will also mark my fourth year as producer of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize with FRANK Content for CBC.
Other recent shows include From Ontario With Love, a live multi-act New Year's Eve TV concert; the Canadian Screen Awards with Insight Productions; and the retrospective documentary Beyond Famous: Canada's Walk of Fame.
Barry has produced and directed over 30 documentary films and television productions that have been broadcast in over 100 countries and won awards and critical acclaim. Barry has made a name for himself focusing on powerful moguls and captivating personalities including Universal Studio's titan Lew Wasserman, Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein and Rolling Stones promoter Michael Cohl.
Barry has also produced several television specials for PBS, HBO, Showtime and Bravo including the concert special BowFire, The Tempest starring Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer, and a charity awards gala ( One X One) starring Richard Gere, Matt Damon and Shakira.
His reputation as a provocative filmmaker was defined when he set his sights on the Holy Grail. Producing a biography on Lew Wasserman, the founder and reclusive powerful chairman of MCA Universal for six decades, was considered career suicide. Wasserman had told everyone that he would never participate in any kind of biography and threatened anyone who dare try while he was alive (or dead). Barry waited until he died and commenced production. In spite of family legal threats and anonymous threats of physical harm, Barry's film, The Last Mogul, was a massive success garnering rave reviews in Variety and The New York Times.
He would go on to produce other highly acclaimed films like Unforgettable, Satisfaction, Guilty Pleasure, A Criminal Mind, and many television specials. Barry's passionate profile on billionaire concert promoter Michael Cohl put him face to face with Bono and Mick Jagger. Avrich went on to produce acclaimed feature films on Winston Churchill, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and disgraced theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky.
Barry has also produced two Stratford Festival film adaptations of Caesar and Cleopatra and The Tempest with Christopher Plummer. Barry has also produced and directed two biographical docs on legendary comedian David Steinberg and Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. His films on Guccione and Drabinsky both had their world premieres at The Toronto International Film Festival. Barry's full filmography can be seen at imdb.com