The sad news from Canada on this Christmas Eve is that Oscar Peterson died yesterday at home in Toronto. He was 82. One of the great piano figures of his time, Peterson was an inspiration to virtually every jazz pianist who followed him, his influence equaled only by his slightly younger contemporary Bill Evans.
The Canadian national newspaper The Globe And Mail quotes Peterson’s friend Tracy Biddle on his importance as a symbol to Canadians.
“He broke out of Canada. He’s one of the first people. We talk of Celine Dion and Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette and Bryan Adams. Oscar Peterson did what they did years ago as a black person. So what he’s done is incredible.”
The keyboard titan, who recorded almost 200 albums, played alongside the greats of the jazz world: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald.
“It makes you want to sing,” the late Ella Fitzgerald once said of Peterson’s piano work.
To read the entire Globe And Mail obituary, go here.
To remember Oscar at his happiest, watch this 1958 performance by his incomparable trio with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis.
The New York Times today published a retrospective collection of articles about Peterson from the early 1990s to 2007. The definitive biography of Peterson is Gene Lees’ The Will To Swing.