It's likely that there was never a single jazz pianist who ever forgot where he was the first time he heard Oscar Peterson. Peterson spent part of his life dodging smart-aleck jazz brickbats ("he had to learn how to play the blues," sneered Miles Davis, in full sneering mode) and, mostly, just soaking up the worship of other jazz pianists and jazz audiences. No jazz pianist ever learned how to swing harder than Oscar Peterson; only McCoy Tyner, in fact, is up there with him when it comes to rhythmic propulsion.
It was Peterson who turned Mulgrew Miller's ears around. And it was McCoy Tyner who seems to have finished the job for Miller.
The result was that ever since Miller moved to New York City in 1977, he was been one of the most in-demand and most respected pianists in all of jazz. The list of jazz musicians he has played with seems to include just about anybody who is anybody, with particularly long stints with the late drummer Tony Williams and that great one-woman university for young jazz pianists, Betty Carter (to play with Carter, you had to have both ears and fingers limber enough to turn completely on a dime).
At age 53, there isn't much that Miller can't do on the piano in jazz.
He brings his regular trio to Buffalo at 3 p.m. Sunday as part of the Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery auditorium. At 2 p.m., he will join WBFO's Dick Judelsohn for an hour of "Remembering Oscar Peterson."
Admission is $22, $18 for members. Call 270-8292 for details.
-- Jeff Simon