Jazz Virtuoso Plays Last Note - Oscare Peterson dies at 82.

Jazz Virtuoso Plays Last Note

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): From NPR News in New York, this is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT.

(Soundbite of music)


This is THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News. News information and your home for chocolate made with Scotch?


Awesome. Merry Christmas, I'm Rachel Martin.

STEWART: And I'm Alison Stewart.

It is December 25, 2007. We are live today. And, Rachel, I made a move last night, but I'm not sure was the right one.

MARTIN: Share with me your moves. What is it?

STEWART: I have a little Martha Stewart in me sometimes and I was setting the table, I had a time for Christmas dinner, so I'm making Christmas dinner and I didn't like the look of my placemats so I decided I needed new placemats last night…

MARTIN: You did not…

STEWART: …at 4:30 and I went into Bed Bath & Berserk(ph).

MARTIN: You did not.

STEWART: I did. Let me tell you, people who are in Bed Bath & Berserk, an hour and a half before it closed on Christmas Eve, they're desperate.

MARTIN: They're also berserk.

STEWART: There's some desperate, desperate people just looking like, yeah, she'll want vacuum bags under the tree. Yes, I had to hear her very much focused, I went, I got my placemats. I scurried, protected one arm up, protecting myself…

MARTIN: Okay, well, I hope for your…

STEWART: …got to the counter.

MARTIN: …sake that Bill and your parents appreciate your table setting…

STEWART: The table is very pretty.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Okay, well, it is a special Christmas show and as part of that, we're going to talk to an expat, which (unintelligible) with Megan Shank. She's spending her Christmas, Christmas Day in Shanghai, China. We'll talk to her.

We'll also stick with some BPP classics like the most you click it, we pick it. The most clicked and viewed and commented stories on the Web, we have the best of them and we've got America's next top Santa. We'll have the news in just a minute from me. But first, here's the BPP's big story.

Jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson is dead at the age of 82 during a career that spans seven decades. Peterson became known for fusing a rhythmic swing with spitfire improvisations. He played jazz with the greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Duke Ellington called him the maharajah of the piano.

News of his death became public on Christmas Eve, but Peterson actually died of kidney failure on Sunday at his home in Toronto. His wife and daughter were with him at the time. Born in Canada, he was a musical prodigy and starred in his own radio show as a teen.

Unidentified Man: Oh, now, hang onto your seats, folks. Here's Oscar Peterson with his version of "Chinatown."

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: His father was a railroad porter and a self-taught pianist who would give his children musical homework assignments to be completed when he return from a train trip. When Peterson spoke to NPR in 2003, he said he was more interested in playing baseball, but his natural talent allowed him to pass many of his father's tests.

Mr. OSCAR PETERSON (Jazz Musician): (unintelligible) teenage, we went through - I found out my elder sister Daisy used to (unintelligible) gently practice the last day to get out when my - before he came. And I had pretty good ear then so I would go out and play baseball all week and she says, you know, when pop comes back here (unintelligible) and you'll be in trouble. I say, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, I know. And the last day or so, I'd sit on the stoop(ph) in the backyard. I'd listen to her then play for him the next day.

BOB EDWARDS: Did that work?

Mr. PETERSON: It worked for a while.

MARTIN: Peterson got a big break in 1942 playing and touring with the Johnny Holmes Orchestra. He was the only black member and he recalled he often couldn't be served in the same hotels or restaurants as the white musicians. He said they would bring him food on the band bus.

STEWART: In 1949, American jazz impresario Norman Granz was so impressed after he heard Oscar Peterson in the club in Montreal. He invited the pianist to play at Carnegie Hall. That performance launched Peterson's international career. In his lifetime, Peterson won Canada's highest honor, The Order of Canada, as well as eight Grammys including one for Lifetime Achievement in 1997.

MARTIN: Let's listen to a little more Oscar Peterson. Here he is performing "Autumn Leaves."

(Soundbite of music "Autumn Leaves")

MARTIN: The sweet sounds sound especially good today. If you want to hear more Oscar Peterson, as well as that entire 2003 NPR interview go to NPR's music site npr.org/music.

STEWART: Oscar Peterson dead at the age of 82. That is the BPP's big story. Now, here's Rachel with even more news.

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