Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

BERNARD PEIFFER: News

JAZZ TIMES REVIEW- AUG 2012 - August 3, 2012

NEW Article on Citizen Jazz. Check it out...! - May 22, 2012

Improvision Released in France - May 9, 2012

Improvision Double CD is now released by Universal Jazz France. Amazon France has the title available now: http://www.amazon.fr/Improvision-Peiffer-Bernard/dp/B007JNN1RU
Sunnyside records will be the sole US/NA distributor for this release. Expected US release date is September 2012.


Amazon Fr review: More than 35 years after his death, the work of Bernard Peiffer is probably one of the most misunderstood of modern jazz. With extraordinary talent, Peiffer never stopped to change his art in search of a perfect fusion between classical music and jazz. An expression that applies to develop in concert as evidenced by the eight unreleased tracks presented in this reissue. Peiffer will demonstrate a mastery and unlimited imagination in interpretation of standards. The introduction of 6 minutes of Lullaby of Birdland and compositions completely unbridled, when it is not improvised pieces from start to finish (Perfect Storm). Registered upon his arrival on American soil in 1956, Bernie's Tune album sees the pianist surrounded by attendants leading (Oscar Pettiford, Joe Puma). An album as an introduction to the American public that will not leave indifferent critic Leonard Feather: "Bernard Peiffer is amazing. Art Tatum aside, I do not know of another virtuoso jazz pianist also." Unfortunately, the French pianist will have little opportunity to return to the studio. One can only regret listening to the very rare Modern Jazz for People Who Like Original Music, released on the label Laurie in 1960, his most personal album. Sans probably too far ahead of his time, Bernard Peiffer will have collected in his lifetime the recognition he deserves.

NEW RELEASE: "IMPROVISION" - April 30, 2012

Universal Jazz France and I are releasing a double CD of album reissue and NEW live performances. Stay tuned for more information as we expect this release to happen imminently.

IAJE Article - July 28, 2007

A truly exceptional example of writing from my friend and scholar Don Glanden. Words escape me to so I will let this speak for itself. It will touch you...I am certain.

Please pass this on to everyone...!

To Don,

I am grateful. --Stephan

Link: http://www.iaje.org/iaje.aspx?pid=108
Author: Don Glanden
The University of the Arts
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Published in the Jazz Research Proceedings Yearbook, Vol. 27, 2007

Introduction
Although the canon of historically important jazz musicians of the twentieth century is becoming codified by some measure of consensus, it is of utmost importance that historians, journalists, musicians, and music educators remain vigilant in their desire to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of musicians who may have been unjustly neglected. Perhaps no musician fits this category more than Bernard Peiffer. Although his arrival in America from France in 1954 generated considerable excitement, Peiffer's career went largely unnoticed, and since his death in 1976 his music has fallen into almost complete obscurity. Of the twentieth century's greatest jazz piano virtuosos-Art Tatum, Phineas Newborn, Oscar Peterson, and Bernard Peiffer – only Peiffer's music remains relatively unknown to the jazz community. It must be noted that a handful of journalists and fellow musicians were always aware of Peiffer's greatness. Leonard Feather wrote, "Peiffer is amazing. I can't recall any jazz pianist except Art Tatum blessed with such mastery."1 He expressed the opinion that Peiffer was in many respects "the greatest living jazz pianist."2 Jazz scholar Barry Ulanov observed, "Undoubtedly Peiffer will make a reputation in this country, a large and important one. In time, the sensitive listener to jazz will not be able to escape the impact of his playing. It is too good in too many ways to elude those who listen hard."3 More recently Michael Brecker has commented on Peiffer's genius, and his former students, including Uri Caine, Sumi Tonooka, Tom Lawton, and this author extol his profound influence on their music.4

By every measure ordinarily used to assess the historical importance of an artist, Bernard Peiffer has earned a place in the jazz pantheon. He possessed a highly developed personal style and musical point of view; he demonstrated innovative approaches including the serial composition and improvisation, Black Moon, recorded in 1956; he possessed extraordinary technique, and he transcended genre in improvisations that used traditional jazz approaches, free post-tonal concepts, impressionism, and complex multi-voice counterpoint.

The release of Formidable, a solo piano disc compiled from the Peiffer estate tapes in early 2006, offers the jazz community a new opportunity to experience the powerful music and compelling life story of one of history's greatest keyboard improvisers.

The Biography
Bernard Peiffer was born on October 23, 1922 in Epinal, Alsace-Lorraine, a long disputed Germanic area in northeastern France. He was the second of three children born to Marcel and Angele Peiffer. Marcel, a career military man and strict disciplinarian, was a violinist and chamber music devotee. He had great aspirations for his young son to develop into a classical concert artist. An uncle, Georges Peiffer, was a composer and church organist.5 Bernard began his formal music study at the age of nine; he studied piano and harmony privately with Pierre Maire, a noted pedagogue and a student of Nadia Boulanger. Peiffer reputedly dazzled older students with his extraordinary tonal memory, playing back extended sections of classical pieces by ear. Suffering the loss of his mother as a young teenager, Bernard continued his intensive study at Ecole Normale de Paris, the Marseille Conservatory, and the Paris Conservatory. At the age of nineteen he won the coveted and revered Premier Prix d'Excellence. His career as a classical artist and the realization of his father's dreams seemed assured. However, after hearing some recordings of Fats Waller on the radio Bernard became passionate about jazz. Within weeks he was able to imitate Waller to perfection, and soon discovered Art Tatum.6 The rhythmic complexity of jazz, its creative freedom, and its improvisational basis drew him deeper into the music; he soon developed a two-handed virtuosic style similar to that of his earliest influences.

In 1943, at the age of 20, Bernard Peiffer made his professional debut with alto saxophonist Andre Ekyan. Soon after, he was hired by Django Reinhardt to play with a ten-piece band at Boeuf Sur Le Toit in Paris. Bernard credited Reinhardt with teaching him the music business, and Django predicted a brilliant career for Peiffer. Their musical association and friendship continued through the years; Django, not known for his fondness of working with pianists, would often show up nightly to Bernard's engagements to "sit in."7

The German occupation of France was at its peak in 1943. Bernard joined the French Resistance Movement soon after witnessing the execution of his best friend on a city street at the hands of the Gestapo.8 Although the sequence of events is unclear, he was pursued and captured by the Nazis and on one occasion escaped on a stolen motorcycle that he drove daringly through the French countryside.9 Bernard's sister Francoise recalls him being sent to Germany for "forced labor" early in the decade.10 Sometime after the liberation of Paris in August 1944, he mysteriously failed to show up for a gig with the Eddie Barclay Orchestra: he had joined the French Army where he served until 1946.11

Out of the army, he resumed his music career, playing concerts for the French Hot Club at the Salle Pleyel and continuing his association with Django Reinhardt. He toured with the leading names in French jazz and concertized throughout Europe. In February 1948, he performed in Nice at one of the world's first jazz festivals; it was there that Peiffer's playing so impressed Ellington alumnus Rex Stewart that he hired Bernard to tour and record with his band.12 By 1949 Bernard was a national name. He recorded with Don Byas, James Moody, Kenny Clarke, performed with Sidney Bechet, and led his own group at the Club Saint-Germain-des-Pres. He also became involved in writing for films and appears playing some dazzling stride piano in Jacques Becker's Rendez-vous de Juillet. He was often invited to play with the best visiting American musicians: a recorded jam session from May 1949 teams Peiffer with Kenny Dorham, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Tommy Potter, and Max Roach, among others.

Through the early 1950s his career flourished: he won a Jazz Hot Magazine award, composed soundtracks for films, experimented with musique concrete, and made a series of jazz of recordings; his first as leader, recorded for the Blue Star label, won the Grand Prix du Disque award in 1953. A star in the clubs of Paris, Monte Carlo and Nice, Bernard attracted the attention of visiting American musicians like Lionel Hampton, Hazel Scott, and Oscar Peterson. One evening after performing in a "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert, Peterson was observed at The Ringside nightclub where he stood in awe watching Peiffer's hands flying over the keys. Alain Tercinet observed, "His intuition, dazzling speed and strokes of genius served by a faultless piano technique ... had no equivalent on the Paris jazz scene."13 Barry Ulanov wrote, "Nobody I've heard matches his skills as an improviser and his thorough knowledge of his instrument."14

In December 1954, Bernard Peiffer left his successful career in France and immigrated to the United States. Influenced by the encouragement of his colleagues and his own commitment to artistic growth, Bernard immersed himself in the American jazz scene and American culture. He would later say, "My work has certainly changed since I've been here. I get a jazz feeling I never could get in France, because I've been able to live with some of the folklore and customs of America. It would work the other way around. If anybody wanted to get really inside the music of Debussy or Ravel, he would have to live close to the French people. Jazz, like pure French wine, is from the ground where it has gathered the essence of its surroundings for years and years."15 He settled in Philadelphia and was soon joined by his wife Corine and baby daughter Rebecca. Frederique, his daughter from an earlier marriage to singer Monique Dozo, remained in Paris. His first American-born child, Pascale, arrived in 1956; her tragic illness and death at the age of two profoundly affected Bernard and is reflected in his moving ballad Poem for a Lonely Child. Son Stephan was born in 1962.

During his first decade in the United States, Bernard's career included some successes. A landmark concert at Philadelphia's Academy of Music in 1956 featured Peiffer performing a two-part program of solo classical repertoire followed by his jazz group.16 His performance at the 1957 Newport Festival prompted a New York Times reviewer to note, "Although George Shearing and Erroll Garner were the pianists featured on the evening program, a French pianist, Bernard Peiffer, who appeared during the afternoon session, elicited the greatest interest."17 A nationwide tour, successful performances at Carnegie Hall, Birdland, and the Composer Room, television and radio appearances, and the release of seven albums, all indicate a measure of success. Unfortunately he also fell into extended periods of inept management, poor promotion, intermittent activity, and problems with record labels.18

After the release of his final commercially produced album in 1965 and kidney surgery at the end of the decade, Bernard spent more time performing and teaching in Philadelphia. He did some touring with his trio, played on college campuses, and made a trip to Los Angeles for appearances at Donte's in September 1970. Reviewing the Donte's performance for the Los Angeles Times, Leonard Feather wrote, "Bernard Peiffer doesn't just play the piano. He conducts hit-and-run commando raids on it ... fellow pianists from Roger Kellaway to Hampton Hawes sat open-mouthed."19 In 1974 he performed at the Newport-New York Festival solo piano night in Carnegie Hall. He brought the house down. "I thought Carnegie was going to explode," he later said.20 Bernard continued to teach and perform around Philadelphia until his kidney problems worsened in 1976. He died on September 7. He was 53 years old. His career, which started with such acclaim and promise in France, never reached the level of success in the United States that critics and fellow musicians expected.

Since Peiffer's death his music has fallen into near obscurity, and much of his most creative and visionary playing has never been available. Fortunately, friends and associates taped a significant amount of the playing that he did around Philadelphia. The music on Formidable was recorded between 1970 and 1975 and released in early 2006. It offers the best document available of the extraordinary musical contributions of Bernard Peiffer.

The Music
Stylistically, Peiffer presented a challenge to music journalists and record producers who found it nearly impossible to categorize the wide range of concepts and influences in his music. As a young classical virtuoso, Bernard had absorbed the repertoire at a level that informed his own creative output. Moving beyond the technical and interpretive challenges of playing Bach, he used the underlying musical principles to improvise complex preludes and fugues. He followed this paradigm with all of the composers with whom he had an intellectual and emotional affinity. In addition to Bach, he was particularly influenced by the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, Debussy, Hindemith, Bartok, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Berg, and Messaien.

His extraordinary musical aptitude and tonal memory, which served him well when he was first introduced to the music of Waller and Tatum, helped him to assimilate contemporary approaches to the jazz idiom. As his concept grew, so did his list of jazz influences; in addition to Waller and Tatum, it ultimately included Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock. But Peiffer dedicated himself early in his musical life to synthesizing his influences and establishing a style of his own. He said, "The evolution of my style can only be explained by searching for a formula that's particular to myself, one that corresponds to my own taste and temperament."21

The successful outcome of his searching was manifested in a style characterized by lyricism, contrapuntal complexity, intense emotional content, virtuosity, and one of the deepest harmonic vocabularies of our time. His jazz piano concept relied heavily on an active left hand, capable of creating fiery counterpoint or complex harmonic accompaniment. He rejected the idiomatic role of the left hand common among bebop pianists. In a 1955 Downbeat blindfold test he asked, "Why don't pianists remember that they have ten fingers? These single-note-line pianists are trying to play another instrument on the piano. They should remember that the piano, in effect, can be a whole orchestra. I have no respect for a pianist whose left hand plays nothing but an occasional chord punctuation. Let's get back to the concept of the two-handed, ten-fingered piano player!"22

Although he had great admiration for Bud Powell and Charlie Parker, and was influenced by bebop, he did not dwell in bop's rhythmic and melodic milieu for any extended period. His early recordings reflect a rhythmic concept linked to his swing era influences. His later playing represents the integration of his contemporary classical interests with a rhythmic approach rich in polyrhythms, free forms, and post-bop sensibilities. His recorded output can be divided into the following historical periods:

1948 - 1954: The France Years
1954 - 1965: The American Releases
1965 - 1976: The Private Recordings

The France Years are documented on eight available recordings: four released on CD by Classics Records documenting the late forties output of Rex Stewart, Don Byas, James Moody, and Kenny Clarke; one released by BMG featuring the Vogue recordings of Andre Hodeir; and three on the Gitanes Jazz in Paris series featuring Peiffer as leader from 1952 through 1954. Bernard's swing era roots, accompanying skills, virtuosity, and compositional skills are evident during this period. The integration of influences into a fully formed personal style is still a work in progress, although Peiffer's proclivity for counterpoint and sophisticated harmonic structures, which would later characterize his style, is clearly present.

The American Releases consist of seven albums released between 1956 and 1965 recorded for EmArcy, Decca, Laurie, and Polygram. With the exception of Bernie's Tunes, they have long been out of print. A highly personal style is evident throughout the recordings. Bernie's Tunes, released in 1956, features Oscar Pettiford and Ed Thigpen and includes the solo piano piece Black Moon, one of the first free atonal compositions presented on a jazz album. Bernard's unique approach to the fusion of jazz and classical concepts can also be heard on Requiem (for Art Tatum) from The Astounding Bernard Peiffer (1957), Rondo from Modern Jazz For People Who Like Original Music (1959), and Hommage to J.S.Bach from Bernard Peiffer and His Trio plays Prelude, Fugue and Trio on Lullaby of Birdland (1965). This album also features the rare use of harpsichord on several tracks. The deeper jazz sensibility and feeling that Bernard sought through his move to America is apparent during this period. It can already be heard by 1956 on Bernie's Tunes and on a swinging version of Strip Tease from Modern Jazz For People Who Like Original Music. Despite the evolution of his playing represented on these recordings, Peiffer was not pleased. It was difficult for him to accept the level of control and influence exercised by record executives and producers. He believed that much of what was recorded did not fully represent his own concepts and the deepest state of his musical thinking. A lack of promotion and support from the record companies only added to his frustration. After Lullaby of Birdland (1965), he never again recorded for a commercial label.

The Private Recordings, the final chapter in the recorded output of Bernard Peiffer, are represented on the 2006 release Formidable. The years leading up to his death were filled with continued evolution and brilliantly creative performances. Without a recording contract, and free of the influence of producers and commercial pressures, Bernard fiercely followed his lifelong commitment to the principle that the creative artist must synthesize his influences, and make his own statement according to his own instincts and impulses. Bernard's appearances around Philadelphia were events. Devoted audiences of musicians (including a loyal contingent of Philadelphia Orchestra players), music students, and fans were consistently treated to extraordinary performances.23 During this period he gave solo concerts, worked regularly with bassist Al Stauffer, and played with his trio that included Stauffer and drummer Jim Paxson. A solo concert recorded in 1971, predating the release of Piano Improvisations by Chick Corea and Facing You by Keith Jarrett, demonstrates that Peiffer was in the vanguard of those establishing a new approach to solo jazz piano. Five pieces from the concert, along with seven additional solo performances from the period, are available on Formidable. Free form pieces, standards, a fugal improvisation, and some breathtaking stride piano highlight the collection.

The Formidable project began in 2001 when Stephan Peiffer visited The University of the Arts with a box of almost seventy reels of tape. They represented more than twenty years of his father's recorded legacy. Thus began our collaboration on one of the defining documents of Bernard's career. Reaction to the album has been positive. Ethan Iverson wrote in Downbeat, "We finally have a proper document of the legendary Bernard Peiffer…when completely unfettered he plays the impossible."24 In Jazz Times Thomas Conrad wrote, "Very few pianists who ever lived would have been capable of the outrageous torrential cadenza that Peiffer lays on Jitterbug Waltz."25 Vic Schermer, commenting on the fugal improvisation in All About Jazz stated, "I know of nothing like it in the history of jazz recording."26 The goal of the Formidable project, to reintroduce Bernard Peiffer to the jazz community, may yet be realized.

Peiffer the Pedagogue
During the last ten years of Bernard's life he devoted a great amount of time to teaching. He had very strong and clearly defined views about aesthetic philosophy, artistic integrity, and pedagogical approaches. His methodology emphasized student creativity. He did not assign specific melodic patterns or chord voicings as an approach to developing improvisational skill, but concentrated on each student's understanding of larger compositional concepts and exploration. For example, rather than assign five chord voicings to learn in every key, he would have students compose pages of voicings that could form the foundation of a personal harmonic language. Study with him was rigorous. It included bitonal scales in double notes, classical repertoire from Bach to Messiaen, traditional and contemporary jazz repertoire, composition, sight-reading, and solfeggio. He considered stylistic lines of demarcation to be artificial and limiting, and this was evident in his pedagogy. Peiffer's strong personality, tempered by a great sense of humor and kindness, proved beneficial to many students who were inspired by his intellect, artistic vision, and mostly his music. Uri Caine has written, "I was an indifferent piano student when I first heard Bernard Peiffer play in Philadelphia with his trio. I was twelve years old and electrified by the music that I heard. Very soon after I became his student and Bernard was a wonderful teacher. He inspired his students to check out many different facets of music. He talked brilliantly about many subjects including the history of jazz, philosophy, and the need to work extremely hard to find your own style. He was very funny and saw the world through the eyes of an artist-rebelling against the conformity of the mainstream and living life on his own terms. His style embraced many different traditions. His students went to see him play at the Borgia Tea Room religiously where they witnessed Bernard's amazing virtuosity and endless invention."27

Conclusion
The life story of Bernard Peiffer is compelling and ironic: a European child prodigy destined for the classical concert stage who was transformed by jazz; an optimistic and energetic personality plagued by tragedy and frustration; an artist who mesmerized adoring audiences wherever he performed, relegated to obscurity for thirty years. Bernard experienced many difficulties in life: the loss of his mother, the murder of his best friend, capture by the Germans, the loss of a child, meager finances, career setbacks, and illness. However, with the help of his wife Corine and a supportive family he remained positive, a consummate fighter to the end. His greatest musical contribution may be the unprecedented level at which he transcended style and period. His music stands as a lasting testament to his belief that the classical and jazz idioms are equal in their capacity to express the deepest emotions and highest intellectual endeavors of an artist. With the release of Formidable in 2006, his contribution, ignored by historians and unfamiliar to a new generation of jazz aficionados, can be reassessed, and Bernard Peiffer can assume his rightful place in jazz history.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Endnotes

1 Leonard Feather, "Caught in the Act," Downbeat (1957)

2 Leonard Feather, Review reprint - Promotional Album Insert, Modern Jazz for People Who Like Original Music, Laurie LLP 1006 (1959)

3 Barry Ulanov, "Barry Ulanov" column, Downbeat (1957)

4 Michael Brecker, Email to Stephan Peiffer (March 27, 2006)

5 Bernie's Tunes, Liner notes EmArcy MG 36080 (1956)

6 Alain Tercinet, Liner notes, La Vie en Rose, Gitanes 013 980-2 (2002)

7 Corine Peiffer, WUHYY Radio interview by Donald Elfman (circa July 1977)

8 Francoise Delfau, interview by Frederique Flynn (December 8, 2006)

9 Stephan Peiffer, interview by Vic Schermer, All About Jazz (June 2, 2006) [podcast] available from www.allaboutjazz.com
10 Francoise Delfau, interview by Frederique Flynn (December 8, 2006)

11 Alain Tercinet, Liner notes, La Vie en Rose, Gitanes 013 980-2 (2002)

12 Leonard Feather, Liner notes, Can-Can, Laurie LLP 1008 (1960)

13 Alain Tercinet, Liner notes, La Vie en Rose, Gitanes 013 980-2 (2002)

14 Barry Ulanov, "Bernard Peiffer, Le Greatest," Metronome (1953)

15 Nat Hentoff, Liner notes, Piano A La Mood, Decca DL 9203 (1958)

16 Leonard Feather, "Caught in the Act" Downbeat (1957)

17 Barry Ulanov, quoting John Wilson, Liner notes, The Astounding Bernard Peiffer, Decca DL 8626 (1957)

18 Leonard Feather, Liner notes, Can-Can, Laurie LLP 1008 (1960)

19 Leonard Feather, "Jazz Pianist From France," Los Angeles Times (July 21,1970)

20 Bernard Peiffer, Personal letter to Don Glanden (July 8, 1975)

21 Alain Tercinet, Liner notes, La Vie en Rose, Gitanes 013 980-2 (2002)

22 Leonard Feather, "The Blindfold Test," Downbeat (June 29, 1955)

23 James Felton, "Peiffer Was Unique Artist," Philadelphia Inquirer (September 1976)

24 Ethan Iverson, Review Downbeat (August 2006)

25 Thomas Conrad, Review, Jazz Times (June 2006)

26 Vic Schermer, "Formidable," All About Jazz, March 19,2006 [journal online]; available from www.allaboutjazz.com
27 Uri Caine, Email to Don Glanden (October 6, 2002)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Reference List

Aldebert, Monique. personal interview (November 19, 2006)

Bernie's Tunes, EmArcy MG 36080 (1956)

Brecker, Michael. Email to Stephan Peiffer (March 27, 2006)

Caine, Uri. Email to Don Glanden (October 6, 2002)

Conrad, Thomas. Review, Jazz Times (June 2006)

Delfau, Francoise. Interview by Frederique Flynn (December 8, 2006)

Feather, Leonard. "Caught in the Act," Downbeat (1957)

Promotional album insert, Modern Jazz…, Laurie LLP 1006 (1959)

Liner notes, Can-Can, Laurie LLP 1008 (1960)

"Jazz Pianist From France," Los Angeles Times (July 21, 1970)

"The Blindfold Test," Downbeat, (June 29, 1955)

Felton, James. "Peiffer Was Unique Artist," Philadelphia Inquirer (September 1976)

Flynn, Frederique. Email to Don Glanden (December 9, 2006)

personal interview (December 30, 2006)

Glanden, Don. "Bernard Peiffer, Formidable," All About Jazz, April 4, 2006 [journal online]; available from www.allaboutjazz.com
Hentoff, Nat. Liner notes, Piano A La Mood, Decca DL 9203 (1958)

Iverson, Ethan. Review, Downbeat (August 2006)

Peiffer, Bernard. Personal letter to Don Glanden (July 8, 1975)

Personal conversations with Don Glanden (1967-68, 1971-73)

Peiffer, Corine. WUHYY Radio interview by Donald Elfman (circa July 1977)

Peiffer, Stephan. Email and personal conversations with Don Glanden (2001-06)

Schermer, Vic. "Formidable," All About Jazz, March 19, 2006 [journal online]; available from www.allaboutjazz.com
Tercinet, Alain, Liner notes, La Vie en Rose, Gitanes 013 980-2 (2002)

Ulanov, Barry. "Barry Ulanov," column, Downbeat (1957)

"Bernard Peiffer, Le Greatest," Metronome (1953)

Liner notes, The Astounding Bernard Peiffer, Decca DL 8626 (1957)


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

APPENDIX

Bernard Peiffer Biographical Timeline

Performances for which there is an extant archival recording are indicated in green.
Performances that were released commercially are in green italics.


1922 Born in Epinal, Alsace-Lorraine to Marcel and Angele Leguichard - Peiffer October 23 The second of three children: older brother Philippe
1927 Francoise Peiffer (sister) born - June 8
1931 Begins to study music at nine with Pierre Maire (student of Nadia Boulanger)
1936 Angele Peiffer dies - December 31
Continued studies at Ecole Normale de Paris, Marseille Conservatory, Paris Conservatory
1938 - 40 Marcel Peiffer marries Madie - two step sisters: Martine , Michelle
1940 - 43 Alsace-Lorraine annexed by Germany. Occupation of northern and western France begins in May 1940. France is completely occupied by 1942.
Wins First Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory.
Best friend (probably Andre Maire) executed by the Gestapo.
Bernard and Philippe join the resistance.
Captured by the Germans
1943 Makes professional debut with Andre Ekyan
Works with Django Reinhardt at "Boeuf Sur Le Toit."
Marcel Peiffer, intelligence officer captured by the Germans, escapes. Later receives French Legion of Honor medal for bravery.
1944 Liberation of France begins June 6.
Paris liberated August 25.
1945 Joins French army
1946 Discharged from army - March
Concerts for the French Hot Club at the Salle Pleyel
Plays with Django Reinhardt
Tours with Hubert Rostaing and Jaques Helian
Performs throughout Europe
1947 Living at "Villa le Mas" in Nice
June 2 - Marries vocalist Monique Dozo in Monaco
1948 Performance at Nice Jazz Festival (possibly first jazz festival) - February
Hired to tour with Rex Stewart
Records with Rex Stewart - April 30, May 5
Daughter Frederique born - May 24

1949 Moves to Paris
Records with Don Byas - January 4, 5
Paris Jam Session with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis - May 15
Records with James Moody and Don Byas - July 5
Performs with Sidney Bechet
Composes music and appears in Rendez-vous De Juillet (Jacques Becker)
Extended engagement at Club Saint-Germain-des-Pres "Discovered" by Barry Ulanov
Performs on Hodeir's score for Autour d'un Recif (Cousteau)
1950 Leads Quintet at St.Germain-des-Pres and The Ringside (Django "sits in" nightly)
1952 Experiments with musique concrete. Seeks to introduce new forms to jazz.
Records La Vie en Rose (1952-53) released as Bernard Peiffer et son Trio
1953 Performs on Hodeir's score for Saint-Tropez, Devoir De Vacances (Paul Paviot)
Composes sound track and performs on Quand Tu Liras Cette Lettre (Melville)
First non-American to win Grand Prix Du Disque award for Blue Star album (his first recording as leader)
Divorced from Monique, December 11
1954 Marries actress Corine Jacques Taillardat
Records Bernard Peiffer and His Saint Germain Orchestra
Records Bernard Peiffer Trio plays Standards
Moves to America - December 20
1955 Rebecca (daughter) born - January 1
Signs with MCA booking agency
Plays: The Embers, NY - Birdland - NY, The Composer Room - NY, Village Vanguard - NY, The Blue Note, Philadelphia
Receives critical support from Leonard Feather
Charlie Parker dies - March 12 / Carnegie Hall Memorial Concert - April 2
Corine and Rebecca move to America. Family lives in New York, Washington, Philadelphia
1956 Olivia's Patio Lounge - January (opens for Sonny Stitt)
Pascale (daughter) born - March
Records Bernie's Tunes
Gigs with: The Glenn Miller Band, Woody Herman Quintet, Benny Goodman Sextet, Red Rodney
Academy of Music Concert: Classical and Jazz - November
1957 Records The Astounding Bernard Peiffer
The Newport Jazz Festival - July 5
1958 Pascale dies - December
Records Piano A La Mood
1959 Records Modern Jazz For People Who Like Original Music
St.Cloud State University concert - Feb 17
1960 Records Can Can
Records The Pied Peiffer of the Piano
1962 Ethical Society
Concert Montreal Jazz Festival
Stephan (son) born - July 9
1963 Signs with Columbia Artists Management - May
Tonight Show - May
University Concert with Lew Tabackin and Gus Nemeth - October 31
Living at 246 E.Johnson St., Philadelphia
1964 "Contrasts" WHYY Radio with Natalie Hinderas
Paso Robles, California - April
Rawlins, Wyoming - October 31
1965 Records Prelude, Fugue, and Trio on Lullaby of Birdland
Moves to 133 W.Upsal St. Philadelphia (Mt.Airy)
Swarthmore Jazz Festival - December
1966 Teaches at The Wilmington Music School (Delaware) - circa 1966-67
Makes trip to France, records Improvised Pieces for Organ
Antibes Jazz Festival
1967 Atlanta Film Festival Gold Medal - musical score for "Grit"
1968 - 69 Exploratory surgery, kidney failure, removal of kidney
1970 Los Angeles, Donte's performances
Two-Piano Session with Pete Robinson
Private Trio Concert in New Jersey - October
Working trio includes Al Stauffer - bass / Jim Paxson - drums
Moves to 8514 Ardleigh Street, Philadelphia
1971 Solo Piano Concert - September 8
West Chester State College - November 11
The Mark of Jazz hosted by Sid Mark - December
1972 Brandywine River Museum - March 19
Cherry Hill Inn - December 10
1974 Walnut Street Theater (Philadelphia)
University of Akron - October 19
The Mark of Jazz hosted by Sid Mark - December 1
Working trio includes Al Stauffer - bass / Billy Jones - drums
1975 Newport in New York - Solo Piano Night - Carnegie Hall / MPS Records offer
Columbia Records offer
If Tatum Were Alive Again offer
Begins weekly gig at the Borgia Tea Room in Philadelphia, October
Foxhole Café, University of Pennsylvania - June 6,7
Akron, Ohio - October
1976 The Painted Bride Duo Concert with Al Stauffer - January 12
Glassboro State College - April 26
The Painted Bride Duo Concert with Al Stauffer - July
Dies at Albert Einstein Medical Center - September 7
1987 Marcel Peiffer dies, March 12
2000 Corine Peiffer dies - November 8 (born November 6, 1933) 67 years old.
2006 Formidable released.
Tatum and Andraysen (grandsons) born - February 5

All About Jazz - 3 Part Audio Interview - June 8, 2006

Interview conducted by Vic Schermer with guests: Don Glanden and Stephan Peiffer. Interview from April 2006.

You can access it at:

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=21669
Let us know what you think by adding your thoughts into the guestbook section...! We'd love to hear from you.

Many thanks to Vic and the AAJ crew to take the time and commitment to make this happen.

DOWNBEAT - CD REVIEW - June 1, 2006

UPCOMING AUGUST 2006 ISSUE WILL REVIEW THE "FORMIDABLE" RECORDING...!!!

JAZZ TIMES - JUNE 2006 ISSUE - June 1, 2006

JazzTimes - JUNE 2006

Review by Thomas Conrad

BERNARD PEIFFER

Formidable…!

To spend time with this album’s music, together with its 16-page booklet of reminiscences and photos, is a moving experience. It represents a passionate labor of love by Stephan Jean-Bernard Peiffer on behalf of his father. Bernard Peiffer was a classically trained French pianist who emigrated to the United States in 1954 and settled in Philadelphia, where he died in 1976.

The central thesis of this project is stated in the liner notes by Philadelphia educator

Don Glanden: “Of the great [piano] virtuosos active in jazz in the 20th century (e.g., Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Phineas Newborn), only Bernard Peiffer’s music has fallen into relative obscurity.”

The sources for this album are private amateur recordings. The sound is pale and distant, but the music burns through it and establishes that Glanden’s thesis has merit. Peiffer pushed his two areas of expertise--classical music and jazz—to levels of synthesis that had not previously been attained. Performances like “Voyage” and “Coccinelle” sound rather like Horowitz hearing Baby Dodds in his head. Very few pianists who ever lived would have been capable of the outrageous torrential cadenza that Peiffer lays on “Jitterbug Waltz.” Somehow, Peiffer’s examination of “Round Midnight” leads, believably, to Chopin.

Anyone interested in the history of jazz piano should begin a belated discovery of Bernard Peiffer with this album.

The Title - April 26, 2006

Just a quick note to those who might wonder how I came up with the record title "Formidable...!"

Some recent feedback from listeners thought the title as "pretentious" and self-proclaiming but I can assure you this is not the case.

Growing up in a home with 2 french parents whose backgrounds were artistically centered, I often heard the word formidable spoken vehemently by them, (add a heavy french accent and pronounce it a la francais; FORR-MEE-DABLUH) when reacting to an exceptional event/performance that deserved the accolade.

Often, during my father's own performances I would remember members of the audience yelling "encroyable!" and "formidable!" as a verbal additive to their applause.

This rememberance is how the title came to my mind. It's meant to exact your reaction after you finish listening...happily, it appears to be on-mark.

New Photos - April 23, 2006

Check out the photo section as I've added a few photos with more on the way. --SP

Tributes - April 8, 2006

So very honored to have these tremedously giften musicians offer their own words regarding Bernard's positive influence.


I was an indifferent piano student when I first heard Bernard Peiffer play in Philadelphia with his trio. I was twelve years old and electrified by the music that I heard. Very soon after I became his student and Bernard was a wonderful teacher. He inspired his students to check out many different facets of music. He talked brilliantly about many subjects including the history of jazz, philosophy, and the need to work extremely hard to find your own style. He was very funny and saw the world through the eyes of an artist— rebelling against the conformity of the mainstream and living life on his own terms. His style embraced many different traditions. His students went to see him play at the Borgia Tea Room religiously where they witnessed Bernard’s amazing virtuosity and endless invention. Bernard’s music has been unjustly neglected but now has the opportunity to be heard again.

~Uri Caine


When I was 15 years old and studying piano with Bernard, he told me “If you’re going to play wrong notes, at least play them the right way!” It was the best piece of advice that I’ve gotten from any teacher. No one has made as much of an impact on my music as Bernard, who taught me to play with conviction and to find my own voice. He stressed musicality above all, and made few distinctions between playing jazz or classical piano. Bernard taught me to approach different types of music with equal respect, enthusiasm, and gusto, a message that I will always carry with me, as I remember him in my compositions and performances forever.

~Annie Gosfield


I first studied with Bernard for six months when I was in tenth grade. It was around 1967 or ’68 and prior to his first serious illness. I continued my studies with him from 1971 to ’73. During my final year with him I left college and took two lessons weekly, one in piano, one in composition. Study with him was rigorous, from bitonal scales in double notes to the repertoire of Beethoven, Debussy, Messiaen, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans and others. The emphasis was always on using all of the analytical and technical training to pursue your own creative impulse and express a personal point of view. He was like a university unto himself. I left for North Texas State in 1973 to finish my degree and Bernard corresponded with me, monitoring my progress and keeping me informed of his activities. He was a great friend and profound influence early in my musical life.

~Don Glanden


Sometimes people come into your life for a reason. Bernard was a great pianist and teacher, but beyond that he was a wonderful person with a generous heart. Bernard had a childlike quality when it came to music—he would get so excited about something. My lessons covered the gamut from classical to jazz improvisation: he had me listen to and look at composers like Scriabin and Ravel. He had the utmost confidence in me and took me very seriously as a composer; that helped me to believe in myself. He made it clear that in order to have freedom as a player you had to get beyond technique—but you had to have the technique to get beyond, and that only happens by practicing your buns off. To listen to Bernard play was transforming; I have never heard anyone play the piano like him. There was no way you could be with him and not be influenced. I count myself very fortunate to have been his student.

~Sumi Tonooka


In 1974, after maybe a year’s experience in playing jazz at all, I went to Bernard for lessons... It was about five years after his death that I was able to integrate his principles more into my playing. What I loved most was his commitment to spontaneity (especially his later playing), and refusal to be locked into one way of playing a tune.

~Tom Lawton

Historical article in All About Jazz - April 6, 2006

Expertly written by Don Glanden; Musician, Composer, Professor, Historian and my good friend.

A wonderful synopsis that captures the essence of Bernard's story.

My suggestion...Read this while:
A) Put on your favorite track on this CD

B) Get comfortable in your favorite "listening" area e.g. chair/couch/, headphones, alone etc...

C) Pick your poison/libation

D) Listen and read the story of this forgotten master in music

E) Get on email and pass this article on to anyone you feel needs to hear/listen...!

My thanks to you in advance. :)

HERE'S THE LINK:
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=21009

All About Jazz: CD Review of "Formidable...!" - March 27, 2006

The wonderful Vic Schermer has reviewed the latest record from Bernard Peiffer, the greatest jazz pianist you probably have never heard of...until now. Check it out...! More to come in the near future.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=21070

Your comments / feedback are vital - March 27, 2006

If you were/are inspired by Bernard Peiffer's performances...let me know. Use the guestbook link to express yourself.

You can help me revive my father's rightful legacy by constructing a voice for those like him who refused to be anything but as original and creative as possible.

Let me know what you think...!

My appreciation in advance.

Cheers,

Stephan

Bernard's Scrapbook - March 27, 2006

Bon jour everyone, Stephan here -

Over time I'll be providing my private collection of articles, reviews, performance photos, bios, record chronology, links etc...so stay tuned...!

In time, Don Glanden & I will be providing you with much more music...but please, be patient with us. We like to do things right...like dad would've wanted.

Spread the word...!!

Salut...!

"Formidable...!" The New CD - March 15, 2006

Released February 2006 from never before heard solo performances of one of Jazz's greatest unknown giants of the piano.

RSS feed