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The Bernard Peiffer Legacy

Victor L. Schermer By

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Bernard Peiffer was a genius of a jazz pianist who became so relegated to oblivion that his son had to dig out audio tapes from various performances to make a recording 29 years after his father's death in 1976. What a travesty of justice that a man of such talent, such brilliance, such profound influence on his students and fellow musicians should not have been given his due recognition, not to mention a legacy of recordings to inspire future generations.

Bernard Peiffer (pronounced Pay-FAIR) was a jazz pianist who grew up in France, quickly became recognized as a piano prodigy, fell in love with jazz, and played with Django Rhinehart and other jazz greats. The vicissitudes of the Nazi Occupation, Peiffer's role in the French Resistance, and his eventual emigration to the United States led to disruption of his career. But, settling in Philadelphia, he developed a following of students, including Uri Caine, Tom Lawton, Sumi Tonooka, and Don Glanden- among the finest and most innovative jazz pianists in the business. However, Peiffer's idealism and musical independence caused further difficulties in gaining recording dates and notoriety. And his life was cut short by illness at age 53. (For further details, Glanden has contributed a full biography. But those in the know who had an opportunity to hear him, such as critic Leonard Feather and Blue Note's Michael Cuscuna, have recognized his greatness.

On March 25, 2006, I did a telephone interview from my home base in Philadelphia with Bernard Peiffer's son Stephan in New York City and pianist Don Glanden in Wilmington. Don had collaborated with Stephan in compiling the tapes for the new CD of Bernard's solo recordings, Formidable. I wanted to pick their brains about what occasioned the CD and about this master pianist who also mentored and inspired so many musicians. The three links below comprise the entire conversation of that Saturday morning, a treasure trove of information for jazz historians, musicians, and fans alike. I hope you enjoy listening in.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Audio produced by Tony Miceli


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