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Oscar Peterson - RIP

Robert J

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RIP. It was my impression that he was always a gentleman. There are many jazz musicians you can't say that about!

I can't say that I was a big fan of his, but I enjoy hearing him on Sirius. The jazz channel there plays plenty of him.

I read here sometime in the past year that in 1959 he recorded 13 albums. Talk about mind boggling!

Have you heard the story of his discovery? Norman Granz and a colleague were in Montreal. In the cab on the way back to the airport, they heard on the radio a live broadcast. They asked the cabbie, "Who's that?"; and told the cabbie to turn around and take them to the nightclub where he was performing.

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off-the-record: when i first met Gladys Hampton at a New Yorkers For Nixon event in '68-- i was working for the East Village Other at the time-- she told me she "couldn't really stand that [Oscar] shit" either. why didn't Lionel ever get Monk, or Mal, or Elmo? "We tried-- Monk wouldn't do it, Mal wanted too much money & Elmo was in jail." shit, that's too bad. "You said it, kid."


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Here's his LA Times obituary, taken from the AP:


Pianist, jazz great Oscar Peterson dies at 82

AFP/Getty Images

One of the best-loved figures of the jazz world, pianist Oscar Peterson played with all the greats during his seven decades in the business, displaying a versatile style that included boogie-woogie, stride and bebop.

From the Associated Press

12:59 PM PST, December 24, 2007

TORONTO -- Oscar Peterson, whose early talent, speedy fingers and musical genius made him one of the world's best known jazz pianists, died at age 82.

Peterson died at his home in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on Sunday, said Oliver Jones, a family friend and jazz musician. He said Peterson's family were with him during his final moments. The cause of death was kidney failure, said Mississauga's mayor, Hazel McCallion.

"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 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."

The American jazz pianist Billy Taylor called Peterson one of the finest jazz pianists of his time.

"He set the pace for just about everybody that followed him. He really was just a special player," Taylor said.

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.

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From the Canadian Press:

OTTAWA - Even Nelson Mandela deemed it an honour to meet this Canadian jazz legend.

There was one witness in the room when the great South African leader was introduced to Oscar Peterson - and he was the man who made the introduction.

Jean Chretien reminisced Monday about the display of mutual admiration that unfolded when he invited Peterson to a 2001 ceremony honouring Mandela.

The former prime minister had been a fan and friend of Peterson's for decades, and says he had already offered to make him Ontario's lieutenant-governor after he took office in 1993.

He says Peterson declined for health reasons.

Years later Chretien brought Peterson to an Ottawa event where Mandela was named an honourary Canadian citizen.

During a private meeting, Chretien recalled, the revolutionary political figure glowed upon meeting the great pianist.

"It was very emotional," Chretien told The Canadian Press in an interview Monday.

"They were both moved to meet each other. These were two men with humble beginnings who rose to very illustrious levels."

In fact he says that when he first met Peterson in the 1960s, his level of international fame was without parallel among his countrymen.

"He was the most famous Canadian in the world," Chretien said.

In an illustration of Peterson's worldwide celebrity, the French government issued a statement reacting to his passing even before the Canadian government did.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said one of the bright lights of jazz had been extinguished.

"He was a regular on the French stage, where the public adored his luminous style," Sarkozy said. "It is a great loss for us."

The Canadian government also produced a written statement Monday saluting Peterson as a "jazz icon."

"A great Canadian, Mr. Peterson was a beloved and respected citizen of the world who remained proud of his heritage," said Josee Verner, the heritage minister.

"More than a talented musician, he was a composer and conductor."

Canada's official Opposition leader expressed deep sadness at the loss.

"I share in the grief of the millions of fans with whom Oscar Peterson shared the tremendous gift of his remarkable music," said Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.

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“Oscar Peterson redefined swing for modern jazz pianists for the latter half of the 20th century up until today. I consider him the major influence that formed my roots in jazz piano playing. He mastered the balance between technique, hard blues grooving, and tenderness. You’ll find Oscar Peterson’s influence in the generations that came after him. No one will ever be able to take his place.”

-- Herbie Hancock

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I know the drill about Peterson being too technical and all that, but I truly loved his playing. He was one of the first jazz musicians that really hooked me.

All that trio and sideman work he did was pure swinging magic to me.

RIP, O.P. :(

What catesta said, word for word. Thank you, Oscar.

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I was never a huge fan of OP, even though I own quite a few of his recordings. I always thought he sounded the same in every tune.

But as a sideman he was great: Ella, Louis, Billie, Anita, Hawk, Pres, Ben Webster, Stuff Smith and so many others. He was a terrific accompanist.

Our friend Bentsy turned me into buying "Exclusively for my friends" set. This set is the best OP in my collection as a leader.

RIP mr. OP

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Oscar Peterson - You Look Good To Me.

Thankfully we are all entitled to our own opinions ... and I totally disagree with The Oscar naysayers! Oscar basically was my entree to jazz in 1952 ... He was a giant of jazz (literally and figuratively), and he was an outstanding human being. I attended his jazz history classes (with Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, and Phil Nimmons) in Toronto in 1961, and he was a wonderful teacher and very approachable, which is more than I can say for many of the performers I have dealt with. ... Those who "hate" him are jealous of his success, wondering why their favorites did not warrant this kind of adoration ... Well there must be a reason that Oscar was so universally appreciated, and it was based upon talent. His detractors found fault with his technique, his improvisations, and his popularity. Too bad for those who wish to see him denigrated and his place in jazz history disputed. The detractors will be proven wrong --- and he will always be remembered as a great jazz musician.

But Hey! ... you don't have to be right to be a critic!

Written from Sunny Cape Town, South Africa, where I am vacationing for the next two weeks ..

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