[JPL] Oscar Peterson, Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 82

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 24 15:20:44 EST 2007

December 24, 2007
Oscar Peterson, Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 82 
Filed at 2:59 p.m. ET

TORONTO (AP) -- Oscar Peterson, whose early talent and
speedy fingers made him one of the world's best known
jazz pianists, died at age 82.

His death was confirmed by Neweduk Funeral Home in
Mississauga, the Toronto suburb where Peterson lived.
The town's mayor, Hazel McCallion, told The Associated
Press that he died of kidney failure but that she did
not know when. The hospital and police refused to
comment. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that
he died on Sunday.

''He's been going downhill in the last few months,
slowing up,'' McCallion said, calling Peterson a
''very close friend.''

During an illustrious career spanning seven decades,
Peterson played with some of the biggest names in
jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy
Gillespie. He is also remembered for touring in a trio
with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the

Peterson's impressive collection of awards include all
of Canada's highest honors, such as the Order of
Canada, as well as a Lifetime Grammy (1997) and a spot
in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

His growing stature was reflected in the admiration of
his peers. Duke Ellington referred to him as
''Maharajah of the keyboard,'' while Count Basie once
said ''Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've
ever heard.''

In a statement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said
''one of the bright lights of jazz has gone out.''

''He was a regular on the French stage, where the
public adored his luminous style,'' Sarkozy said. ''It
is a great loss for us.''

Jazz pianist Marian McPartland called Peterson ''the
finest technician that I have seen.''

McPartland said she first met Peterson when she and
her husband, jazz cornetist Jimmy McPartland, opened
for him at the Colonial Tavern in Toronto in the

''From that point on we became such goods friends, and
he was always wonderful to me and I have always felt
very close to him,'' she said. ''I played at his
tribute concert at Carnegie Hall earlier this year and
performed `Tenderly,' which was always my favorite
piece of his.''

Born on Aug. 15, 1925, in a poor neighborhood
southwest of Montreal, Peterson obtained a passion for
music from his father. Daniel Peterson, a railway
porter and self-taught musician, bestowed his love of
music to his five children, offering them a means to
escape from poverty.

Oscar Peterson learned to play trumpet and piano at a
young age, but after a bout with tuberculosis had to
concentrate on the latter.

He became a teen sensation in his native Canada,
playing in dance bands and recording in the late 1930s
and early 1940s. But he got his real break as a
surprise guest at Carnegie Hall in 1949, after which
he began touring the United States and Europe.

He quickly made a name for himself as a jazz virtuoso,
often compared to piano great Art Tatum, his childhood
idol, for his speed and technical skill.

He was also influenced by Nat King Cole, whose Nat
King Cole Trio album he considered ''a complete
musical thesaurus for any aspiring Jazz pianist.''

Peterson never stopped calling Canada home despite his
growing international reputation. But at times he felt
slighted here, where he was occasionally mistaken for
a football player, standing at 6 foot 3 and more than
250 pounds.

In 2005 he became the first living person other than a
reigning monarch to obtain a commemorative stamp in
Canada, where he is jazz royalty, with streets,
squares, concert halls and schools named after him.

Peterson suffered a stroke in 1993 that weakened his
left hand, but not his passion or drive for music.
Within a year he was back on tour, recording ''Side By
Side'' with Itzhak Perlman.

As he grew older, Peterson kept playing and touring,
despite worsening arthritis and difficulties walking.

''A jazz player is an instant composer,'' Peterson
once said in a CBC interview, while conceding jazz did
not have the mass appeal of other musical genres.
''You have to think about it, it's an intellectual
form,'' he said.


AP reporter Lily Hindy in New York contributed to this


On the Net:

Oscar Peterson home page: www.oscarpeterson.com

Canadian Broadcasting Corp. interview:


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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