On his 85th birthday, Oliver Jones reflects on a career at the piano

Famed Montreal jazz musician Oliver Jones celebrated his 85th birthday Wednesday – and to mark the occasion, he welcomed CTV News Montreal into his home for a chat and a chance to reflect.

He began playing piano at five years old at Union United Church in Little Burgundy, but if his father had his way, Jones would not have become a professional musician – he would have been an accountant.

"He had his mind set on it. I was going to be the accountant in the family, and I don't know why he even picked that, because that was my worst subject! But he ended up loving what I did in the end," he said.

  • Mutsumi Takahashi interviews Oliver Jones in his home. Watch the interview above

Jones said from an early age, fellow Montreal pianist Oscar Peterson served as an inspiration.

"I first heard Oscar when I was four years old at the Union United Church," he said. "He had such command over the piano."

With a strong base in classical music, that training still informs his jazz style today. a lover of classical, he took up jazz because of cultural expectations.

"I had never seen any black concert pianist. It was kind of expected of me to play boogie woogie and jazz because of my race, and it kind of bothered me later on. I say to myself 'why only jazz?'" he said. "I guess if I had the choice today, I probably would be a classical pianist." 

At 85, Jones doesn't need to worry about slowing down any time soon – his mother lived to be over 100, and a cousin had the distinction of being the second oldest man in the world, living to 115.

"I told them at the Jazz Festival, if I live to be 90, then I'll come out to do a concert at 90. And at 95 and hopefully at 100, I can sit down and play something," he said.

On Sept. 13, the Oliver Jones Golf Day takes place at Falcon Golf Club in Hudson, a fundraiser that helps community initiatives near to his heart, including helping children learn to swim.