Each of the 128 people who patronised the Club for this event were rewarded with two hours of world class jazz. His adulation for, and friendship with Oscar Peterson, revealed to us just what a sincere, passionate and highly motivated musician we have in Matt Baker. It also reminded us what a fine pianist he is in his own right, holding the audience transfixed with his technical and artistic command of piano jazz.
This was not just another tribute show where musicians latch on to the music of some jazz star because the name of that star will sell tickets. We’ve all seen and heard musical copyists, some of whom are very much like the fourth carbon copy in the old receipt books.
Matt Baker does not try to imitate Oscar Peterson, and that may be the secret of his success. He plays Oscar’s music in honour of Oscar, not in imitation of him. He has the sense to know that comparison are odious and rightfully stamps his own mark and personality on his performances.
Between numbers Matt recounted his own musical life and how he became a fan of Oscar, culminating in meeting him in the USA and forming a bond with him and his family. We were even treated to a slide show of Oscar photos and a commentary by Matt on Oscar’s life and successes.
Matt’s choice of accompanists in Jeremy O’Connor on bass and Cameron Reid on drums delighted the audience and provided the perfect foil to his piano work, while vocals from Ingrid James showed the depth of musical understanding between them, developed over their ten year friendship and association.
Matt will shortly be leaving Australia to spend three years, or maybe longer, in New York. It’s a tough call to make it as a non-American jazz performer there but, if anyone can do it, surely Matt with his musical talent, dedication, good looks and engaging personality, will have a better chance than most.