“By the spring of 1956 Pettiford’s reign as house leader and musical director at the Cafe Bohemia had come to an end. What looked like an ideal set-up soon exploded when Oscar started running up bar bills in excess of his salary.”
(Joop Visser “Oscar rides Again” multi-cd set)
“He was an unhappy man in lots of ways. He was a frustrated man. He had illusions of grandeur. It happened to a lot of people who came up when he did. He was trying to make his one adjustment to the inequities of the scene. He couldn’t understand why he wasn’t as famous a Dizzy Gillespie. He actually consciously thought about this a great deal. He was very unrealistic in his business dealings, particularly in that period.” - Dick Katz from Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s
Around this time (late 50s) Pettiford left the US and moved to Denmark. In 1960 he fell off a bicycle and was hospitalized and a metal plate put in his head. After another accident (car accident?) he was hospitalized again and never recovered, dying in Denmark in September of 1960. A sad end to one amazing musician who despite a short life with his share of bad luck, wrote beautiful music that could be buoyant as well as thoughtful. One of the greats and one of my heroes.
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