Oscar Peterson on Piano Jazz

Set List

"Like Someone in Love" (J. Burke and J. Van Heusen)

"Lament" (J.J. Johnson)

"Reunion Blues" (Milt Jackson)

"Love Ballad" (Peterson)

"Nighttime" (Peterson)

"A Child Is Born" (Jones)

"Portrait of Oscar Peterson" (McPartland)

"Portrait of Marian" (Peterson)

"In a Mellow Tone" (Ellington)

Oscar Peterson (300)

hide captionOscar Peterson.

courtesy of the artist

Oscar Peterson was born in Montreal in 1925. He and his four siblings learned to play the piano from their father, a self-taught musician. He took to the piano quickly and easily, and practiced non-stop. As he entered high school, he also began studying classically with Hungarian pianist Paul de Marky.

As he was learning the classics, Peterson was also becoming enamored with the music of Count Basie, Nat King Cole, James P. Johnson, and Art Tatum, perhaps the biggest influence on his sound and style. Peterson won a national amateur contest held by the CBC at age 14 and soon began playing with popular orchestras in dance halls around town — including one with a young trumpeter named Maynard Ferguson.

At 17, Peterson joined the Johnny Holmes Orchestra, one of the most popular swing bands in Canada. He spent the next five years touring the U.S. and Canada with the group. It was during this time that Peterson made his first record for RCA.

In 1949, Peterson was invited to join Jazz at the Philharmonic, a series of concerts and recordings by jazz musicians, put together by Verve founder Norman Granz. An appearance at Carnegie Hall as a part of this showcase brought Peterson into the international spotlight. His continued association with the group during the 1950s led to a number of gigs, backing such jazz stars as Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.

In 1955, Peterson began a lasting musical relationship with bassist Ray Brown. The two spent 15 years together as the core of a trio that included guitarists Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis, and later drummer Ed Thigpen. Peterson and the various permutations of his trios released albums at a staggering pace, sometimes recording and releasing five or six a year.

In the 1970s, Peterson formed his next great trio with bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and guitarist Joe Pass. With this group, Peterson won his first Grammy in 1974. He would go on to win seven more Grammys over the course of his career, including a Lifetime Achievement award in 1997.

Peterson recorded and toured extensively through the U.S., Europe, and Japan until 1993, when he suffered a stroke. With extensive physical therapy, Peterson was able to regain the strength in his left hand and began playing and recording again.

Peterson died on Dec. 23, 2007, at the age of 82. Among his many awards, Peterson was honored with the Glenn Gould Prize, he was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame Award, and he became the first living person, other than a reigning monarch, to appear on a Canadian commemorative stamp.

Originally recorded Nov. 9, 1997. Originally broadcast April 4, 1998.

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Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

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  • Album: Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz
  • Artist: Oscar Peterson
  • Label: The Jazz Alliance
  • Released: 2002
 

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