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Oscar Peterson dead at 82

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  • Louis Rugani
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 1 , 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 
      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 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 
      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 

      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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