Monday, December 24, 2007

Jazz great, Oscar Peterson has died. His early talent and speedy fingers made him one of the world's best known jazz pianists, He died December 23, 2007 at age 82.
His death was confirmed by Neweduk Funeral Home in Mississauga, the Toronto suburb where he lived. He reportedly died of kidney failure. The exact time of death is not known. The hospital and police refused to comment. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported that he died on Sunday, 23 December.

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, The Oscar Peterson Trio, with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the 1950s.

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 1940s.

"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."

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was born in the poor St. Antoine district of Montreal on Aug. 15, 1925, one of five children of Daniel Peterson, a West Indian immigrant, and the former Olivia John, whom Daniel had met in Montreal. Daniel Peterson, who worked as a sleeping-car porter on the Canadian Pacific Railway, had taught himself how to play the organ before he landed in Halifax, N.S., in 1917. Mr. Peterson’s mother, who also had roots in the Caribbean, encouraged Oscar to study music.

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.

(Oscar Peterson, Ella Fiztgerald, Roy Eldridge, and Max Roach)In an undated photo, Oscar shines among the stars of Jazz.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Oscar Peterson was frequently invited to perform for heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II and President Richard M. Nixon. In 2005 he became the first living person other than a reigning monarch to obtain a commemorative stamp in Canada, where streets, squares, concert halls and schools are named after him.

His autobiography, “A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson,” was published in 2002 by Continuum.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, he was married four times. He had a daughter, Celine, with his fourth wife, Kelly. He also had six children from his first and third marriages: Lyn, Sharon, Gay, Oscar Jr., Norman and Joel.

10:43 PM  

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