NEW YORK, 24 DECEMBER 2007 - Canadian jazz
legend Oscar Peterson died yesterday of kidney failure at age
82, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported. His death was
confirmed by Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario,
the Toronto suburb where Peterson lived.
Pianist and composer Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was born 82 years
ago, on 15 August 1925 in Montréal, Canada. He first learned
music from his self-taught father, a West Indian immigrant who
worked as a railway porter, then studied under both the gifted
Hungarian classical pianist, Paul deMarky and old-time jazz
musicians. Oscar Peterson's break came when he won a CBC
amateur contest, followed by appearances on a weekly Montréal
radio show and with The Happy Gang.
Heavily influenced by Art Tatum, James P. Johnson, and many
other pianists of the day, Peterson brought his talents to the
United States in 1949 with his Carnegie Hall debut after being
discovered by jazz impresario Norman Granz. From the early
1950s until his death, Peterson performed with his trios and
quartets all over the world.
The Canadian pianist later performed or recorded with many of
the greats of American jazz including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis
Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charlie
Parker , Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz and Milt Jackson.
Often compared to piano virtuoso Art Tatum, Peterson recorded
close to 200 albums, but his best-known works remain the
Canadiana Suite and Hymn to Freedom, one of
the Crusade Hymns during the Civil Rights Movement in
the United States. He also composed music for motion pictures.
He suffered a stroke in 1993, but within a year was performing
and touring again, despite a severely weakened left side.
For his three Telarc recordings at the Blue Note, Peterson won
three Grammy awards; the first two for his group and solo
performance on the 1990 release "The Legendary Oscar Peterson
Trio Live at the Blue Note," the second for the group
performance on the 1991 release "Saturday Night at the Blue
Note." In February 2007, Telarc
released "What's Up? The Very Tall Band" featuring Peterson
with the original trio of Milt Jackson and Ray Brown, recorded
live at the Blue Note in November of 1998.
Oscar Peterson's awards are numerous and include: multiple
Grammy and Juno winner, Companion of the Order of Canada,
recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize (whose namesake is
considered Peterson's only rival among Canadian pianists of
international renown), Japan's Praemium Imperiale (the Arts
equivalent of the Nobel Prize), the UNESCO International Music
Prize, member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and recipient
of the "lifetime achievement" award from the National Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences, parent body to the (US) Grammy
Awards. In 2005 Canada
Post issued a 50-cent commemorative stamp for his contribution
to music. Additional information about Dr. Peterson and his
career can be found at www.oscarpeterson.com.
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