69Oscar Peterson dead at 82
- Dec 25, 2007
From: Ron Smolen
Sent: Monday, December 24, 2007 3:54 PM
Subject: Oscar Peterson dead at 82
Begin forwarded message:Subject: Jazz great Oscar Peterson dead at 82
TORONTO, Ontario (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
'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 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
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 good 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
Born on August 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
He was also influenced by Nat King Cole, whose Nat King Cole Trio
album he considered 'a complete musical thesaurus for any aspiring
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
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.
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