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Oscar Peterson

 B i o g r a p h y

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, O.Ont. (b. August 15, 1925, Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian jazz pianist and composer.

Oscar Peterson is considered by some critics to be one of the greatest jazz piano players of all time.[1] His virtuosity and command of the piano have routinely stunned audiences worldwide for more than fifty years.

He began learning trumpet and piano from his father at the age of five, but by the age of seven, after a bout of tuberculosis, he concentrated on the piano. Some of the artists who influenced Peterson during the early years were Teddy Wilson, Nat "King" Cole, James P. Johnson and the legendary Art Tatum, to whom many have tried to compare Peterson in later years. In fact, one of his first exposures to the musical talents of Art Tatum came early in his teen years when his father played Art Tatum's Tiger Rag for him, and Peterson was so intimidated by what he heard that he did not touch the piano for two months.

Peterson has also credited his sister Daisy, a noted piano teacher in Montreal who also taught several other noted Canadian jazz musicians, with being an important teacher and influence on his career.

He soon developed a reputation as a technically brilliant and melodically inventive jazz pianist, and became a regular on Canadian radio. His United States introduction was at Carnegie Hall, New York City in 1949 by Norman Granz; owing to union restrictions his appearance could not be billed.

An important step in his career was joining impresario Norman Granz's labels (especially Verve records) and Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic package. Granz discovered Peterson in a peculiar manner: as the impresario was being taken to the Montréal airport by cab, the radio was playing a live broadcast of Oscar Peterson at a local night club. He was so smitten by what he heard that he ordered the driver to take him to the club so he could meet the pianist. So was born a lasting relationship, and Granz remained Peterson's manager for much of the latter's career. Through Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic he was able to play with the major jazz artists of the time: some of his musical associates have included Ray Brown, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Milt Jackson, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Ed Thigpen, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Louis Armstrong, Stéphane Grappelli, Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry, Joe Pass, Anita O'Day, Count Basie, and Stan Getz.

In the early 1950s Peterson began performing with Ray Brown and Charlie Smith as the Oscar Peterson Trio. Shortly afterward the drummer Smith was replaced by guitarist Irving Ashby, formerly of the Nat King Cole Trio. Ashby, who was a swing guitarist, was soon replaced by Barney Kessel. Kessel tired of touring after a year, and was replaced by Herb Ellis. When Ellis left the group in 1958, Peterson and Brown believed that Ellis could not be replaced adequately, and the trio added a drummer, at first Gene Gammage for a brief time, then Ed Thigpen. In this group Peterson became the dominant soloist. Later members of the group were Louis Hayes, Bobby Durham, Ray Price, Sam Jones, and George Mraz.

Some cognoscenti assert that Peterson's best recordings were made for the MPS label in the late sixties and early seventies. For some years subsequently he recorded for Granz's Pablo Records after the label was founded in 1973 and in more recent years for the Telarc label. Probably his best known composition is "Canadiana Suite."

In 1993, Peterson suffered a serious stroke that weakened his left side and sidelined him for two years. However he has overcome this setback and is today still working on a limited basis. In 1997 he received a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award, proof that Oscar Peterson is still regarded as one of the greatest jazz musicians ever to play.

In 2003, Peterson recorded a DVD 'A Night in Vienna' for the Verve label, which clearly shows that Peterson's age limits his technical prowess. Even so, his playing has lost but little of its charm, and he still tours the US and Europe, though maximally one month a year, with a couple of days rest between concerts to recover his strength. His accompaniment consists of Ulf Wakenius (guitar), David Young (bass) and Alvin Queen (drums), all leaders of their own groups.

Recently, he had to cancel his performance at the 2007 Toronto Jazz Festival, and his attendance to a June 8th Carnegie Hall all-star performance in his honour, due to illness. His work has earned him seven Grammy awards over the years and he was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He also belongs to the Juno Awards Hall of Fame and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, and promoted to Companion, its highest rank, in 1984. He is also a member of the Order of Ontario, a Chevalier of the National Order of Quebec, and an officer of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

He has received the Roy Thomson Award (1987), a Toronto Arts Award for lifetime achievement (1991), the Governor General's Performing Arts Award (1992), the Glenn Gould Prize (1993), the award of the International Society for Performing Artists (1995), the Loyola Medal of Concordia University (1997), the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1997), the Praemium Imperiale World Art Award (1999), the UNESCO Music Prize (2000), and the Toronto Musicians' Association Musician of the Year award (2001).

In 1999, Concordia University in Montreal renamed their Loyola-campus concert hall Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in his honour.

From 1991 to 1994 he was chancellor of York University in Toronto.

In 2004 the City of Toronto named the courtyard of the Toronto-Dominion Centre Oscar Peterson Square.

The Peel District School Board named a school after Oscar Peterson.

On August 15, 2005 Peterson celebrated his 80th birthday at the HMV flagship store in Toronto. A crowd of about 200 gathered to celebrate with him there. Diana Krall sang happy birthday to him and also performed a vocal version of one of Peterson's songs "When Summer Comes". The lyrics for this version were written by Elvis Costello, Krall's husband. Canada Post unveiled a commemorative postage stamp in his honour. This marked the first time that a Canadian postage stamp was created celebrating an individual who was still alive other than members of the British Royal Family. The event was covered by a live radio broadcast by Toronto jazz station, JAZZ.FM.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 A l b u m s

Solo Albums:
The Jazz Soul of Oscar Peterson (Verve Records, 1959)
Oscar Peterson Trio with Milt Jackson - Very Tall (Verve Records, 1962)
Oscar Peterson Trio + One - Clark Terry (PolyGram Records, 1964)
Jazz in Paris: Stephane Grappelli Quartett Vol. 1 (Universal Music, 1973)
Digital at Monterux (Pablo Rcords, 1980)
Ultimate (Verve Records, 1998)
Planet Jazz (RCA Records, 1999)
Finest Hour (Verve Music Group, 2000)
Get Happy (Disques Dreyfus, 2001)
On a Clear Day (Bluenite, 2001)

with Lionel Hampton:
Verve Jazz Masters 26 (Verve Records, 1994)

with Dave Brubeck:
Members Edition (TKO records, 1998)