For those interested in knowing more about Oscar Peterson, the British journalist Steve Voce, in the British newspaper The Independent, provides a 2700 word obituary-as -essay. Among his anecdotes is one that illustrates the regard in which Peterson was held by other pianists. It also captures Duke Ellington’s generosity and wryness. Peterson idolized Ellington, who was twenty-six years older.
Following Oscar Peterson on stage at a concert in 1967, Duke Ellington remarked: “When I was a small boy my music teacher was Mrs Clinkscales. The first thing she ever said to me was, ‘Edward, always remember, whatever you do, don’t sit down at the piano after Oscar Peterson’.”
As for Peterson’s effect on younger pianists, Voce tells this story:
Earlier, in 1945, a 16-year-old John Williams, later to be Stan Getz’s pianist, was on tour in Canada with the Mal Hallett band and was playing in Montreal. “All the talk in the crowd was of a brilliant local pianist,” said Williams, “and as we played, suddenly, between numbers, the packed audience in the dance hall parted like the Red Sea and this huge guy came up towards the bandstand. With some insight, I vacated that piano bench quick and he sat down. He played, and we were stunned. I had never heard anyone play like that.”
Like all of Voce’s posthumous portraits of musicians, his Peterson piece is thorough and illuminating. To read it, click here.
For a reminder that Peterson had modes other than flash and fire, watch this video clip of him teamed with another of his heroes, Count Basie. The bassist is Niels Henning Ørsted-Pedersen, the drummer Martin Drew. At the end, O.P. beams like a schoolboy who has just won a prize.