Monday, December 24, 2007

Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson dies

(swiped from BBC & Pitchfork Media)

Oscar Peterson, the legendary Canadian jazz pianist known for his breathtaking displays of speed and agility, died Sunday, December 23 at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, according to various news sources. He was 82 years old. According to the Associated Press, the cause of death was kidney failure.

Peterson was born in Montreal on August 15, 1925. He grew up in a musical family, and was influenced by Art Tatum and Nat "King" Cole at an early age. While only in high school, he played in a band with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and performed regularly on Canadian national radio. In 1949, Peterson performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, launching his international career. He signed to Verve in the early 1950s, and went on to play with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker. His reputation for velocity and virtuosity grew and grew in the decades that followed, and he attracted a large international following. A 1993 stroke weakened his left hand, but Peterson continued to play for years to come.

Throughout his lifetime, Peterson was given countless honors and awards, including many Grammys. He was given his own stamp in Canada and Austria. He also started blogging in 2000.

Since the news of Peterson's death hit on Christmas Eve, tributes from the jazz world have been pouring in. The Associated Press quoted the following statement from Herbie Hancock: "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 ... No one will ever be able to take his place."

A message from Peterson's family on his website asks that those seeking to honor the pianist's memory can make donations to World Vision or Christian Children's Fund.

Video: Oscar Peterson Trio: Live in Italy 1961

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