Jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson dead at 82

( Reuters ) - Oscar Peterson, who sat atop the world of jazz piano for decades with his driving two-handed swing, technical wizardry and rapid-fire solos, has died, a friend of the musician said on Monday. He was 82.

One of jazz's most recorded musicians, both as leader and accompanist, Peterson rose from working-class beginnings in Montreal -- where his father let him pursue music only if he promised to be "the best" -- to become a major influence on generations of top-flight musicians.

"He was very shy, very down to earth. You didn't know you were with a world musician by any means," said Hazel McCallion, a friend and the mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, a Toronto suburb where Peterson lived.

McCallion said that Peterson died late on Sunday and that she was informed by Peterson's family. CBC Television said he died at home of kidney failure.

Since blasting onto the world stage with a famous appearance at New York's Carnegie Hall in 1949, the beefy high school dropout amassed armfuls of honorary degrees and awards, including a 1997 Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award.

Canada made him a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor, as well as the first living Canadian to be depicted on a stamp.

Peterson kept an exhaustive touring schedule throughout his career with groups featuring such players as bassist and longtime collaborator Ray Brown, drummer Ed Thigpen and guitarist Herb Ellis.

Peterson took a break from performing in the early 1990s after a stroke that weakened his left hand, but resumed some performances after two years. Even with a weak left hand, critics said he outshone many pianists with two good ones.

Peterson was born on August 15, 1925, the fourth of five children of a Canadian Pacific Railway porter who played piano. The family lived in Little Burgundy, a black enclave in Montreal, where Peterson's elder sister, Daisy, gave her siblings their first piano lessons.

Musicians Teddy Wilson and Nat "King" Cole were among early influences. When Peterson was a teenager his father played him a recording of Art Tatum -- the lightning-fast pianist to whom Peterson would later be compared -- which intimidated him so much he stayed away from the piano for a month.

At 14, he began performing for radio and played in a school band that included trumpeter Maynard Ferguson.

His career on the rise, Peterson asked his father if he could drop out of school. The elder Peterson said he would not "let him leave high school to be a jazz piano player. You have to be the best, there is no second best."

He took it to heart.

"When I started I had great belief, and there were quite a few bruises and disappointments along the way, but I never lost the belief," he told Reuters in 1999.

Peterson famously got his big break in the late 1940s when impresario and record producer Norman Granz was in a taxi en route to the Montreal airport, with the radio tuned to a live show featuring Peterson's trio. Granz demanded the cabbie make a beeline to the nightclub, where he met Peterson.

Soon afterward Granz brought him to New York for one of his "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts, a showcase for such stars as Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. Peterson stepped into the big time with a duet with bassist Brown.

"His career just accelerated from that point (1949) on," said jazz pianist and composer Joe Sealy. "He'll be probably most remembered as just an absolutely exquisite and amazing jazz piano player."

He became a regular session player in the 1950s for Granz's Verve Records while leading trios, first with bass and guitar, and later with drummers such as Thigpen, Louis Hayes, Bobby Durham and Martin Drew.

Accolades followed him everywhere, but Peterson always had to fend off some critics who believed his technical prowess outweighed his ability to express emotion on the keyboard.

"Technique is something you use to make your ideas listenable," he once told jazz writer Len Lyons. "You learn to play the instrument so you have a musical vocabulary, and you practice to get your technique to the point you need to express yourself, depending on how heavy your ideas are."

Among his many recordings, he once cited his 1962 album "Night Train," with Brown and Thigpen, and a 1964 ode to his native land, "Canadiana Suite," as his favorites.

Peterson could also be a social activist. In the 1980s, he spearheaded a campaign to convince Canadian advertisers to make television commercials that better represented minorities.

Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Iranian tourists reduce visits to Turkey amid COVID-19 pandemic
Iranian tourists reduce visits to Turkey amid COVID-19 pandemic
Loading Bars
Latest
Energy, transport sectors – main area of Romanian interest in Turkmenistan
1 dead, 2 missing after workshop collapse in SW China city
Import of Turkish clothes by Uzbekistan drops sharply
75 more coronavirus patients die in Moscow in past day — crisis center
Number of COVID-2019 cases across globe up by over 463,000 in past day — WHO
Israel reports 798 new COVID-19 cases, 330,796 in total
Units of the Azerbaijan Army enter Kalbajar region
Pennsylvania certifies election results for Biden
Iran, Qatar sign MoU to cooperate on economy
Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan being liberated from Armenian occupation today
China, Japan eye closer cooperation amid COVID-19 pandemic
Construction of the TAPI gas pipeline in Afghanistan territory will continue next year
ICESCO SecGen sends letter to President Aliyev
Azerbaijani, Russian presidents hold phone talks
Urban transformation back on track for ‘abandoned’ Istanbul neighborhood
“Scorched earth” strategy of Armenians leaving Azerbaijani Kalbajar region did not escape EC attention - report
President Rouhani: Iran to be able to mass produce coronavirus vaccine soon
Turkmenistan is convinced of the need to attract political-diplomatic tools to achieve peace and prosperity in Afghanistan
Georgian banks see increase in interest income
Azerbaijan’s revenues from export of hazelnuts down
Azerbaijan’s import of plastics and plastic products drops
Turkmenistan will continue to cooperate with Afghanistan on security issues
Nursing homes will be first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Spain
Troops from Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan who took part in Karabakh conflict, return home (PHOTO)
Speaker of Azerbaijani parliament takes part in int’l conference initiated by Turkish parliament, PACE (PHOTO)
Any result that acceptable for Azerbaijan - acceptable for Turkey too, FM says
Volume of paid services in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic down
Azerbaijan shows aerial footage of Shusha city (VIDEO)
Kazakhstan eyeing to develop information system for accounting of oil and gas condensate
Anglo Asian Mining's production of precious metals in Azerbaijan may decrease
Uzbekistan eyes to increase share of renewable energy sources by 2030
Airbus CEO says industry might need until 2025 to reach pre-crisis levels
Parliament's plan to increase subsides - costly for Iranian government
Ukrainian companies enter Uzbek commodity exchange
National Bank of Georgia reveals data on losses of commercial banks
Import of sugar and confectionery by Azerbaijan down
Demand for Turkish electrical goods on Kazakh market grows in 10M2020
Azerbaijan confirms 1,259 more COVID-19 recoveries
Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling in Iran
Azerbaijan discloses data on destroyed houses in liberated Fuzuli district
Baku Media Center prepares video covering Armenian vandalism on occupied territories of Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Russian president hopes for participation of int’l organizations in Karabakh conflict settlement
Power abuse by major states prevents resolving conflicts - Russian FM
Uzbek-Korean JV to buy electrical products via tender
Turkmenistan offers business opportunities for Switzerland in number of fields
North-South Corridor - on Iran's agenda - Minister of Roads and Urban Development of Iran
Turkish, Russian military personnel to jointly patrol in Nagorno-Karabakh - Turkish MoD
Azerbaijan shows footage from Abdal, Gulabli villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
Egyptian air operator enters Uzbek market
Uzbekistan to introduce changes to electricity payments in 2021
Iran assigns more funds to complete unfinished projects
Turkmenistan's Turkmennebit opens tender for purchase of equipment
Azerbaijan’s startup sector expects big investments
Iran's ten-month import of steel from Turkey drops
Tesla set to breach $500 billion in market value
State budget for 2021-2023 approved in Kazakhstan following amendments introduction
Kazakhstan's bitumen output exceeds 2020 plan as maintenance works held country-wide
Port of Baku reveals total 10M2020 cargo shipments
New railway vehicles put into operation in Iran
Iran`s Zarif to visit Moscow and Baku despite postponement
Kazakhstan looking to double renewables share in electricity production
Iran continues to cut reliance on oil revenue
Volume of container transshipment between Kazakh, Azerbaijani ports almost triples
LUKOIL refusing plans to construct giant petrochemical complexes
Iran, Qatar sign an extensive Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate cooperation
Switzerland names main trade statistics with Turkmenistan
Dry cargo transshipments through Baku port grow in 10M2020
LUKOIL says reducing oil exports to Europe is inevitable
Georgia receives new buses of modern standards
Georgian hazelnuts exports up
Georgia sees increase in export of tangerines
Ryanair wants to be 'at front of queue' for new 737 MAX order
Azercell’s Mobile Eye Clinic joins campaign for IDPs initiated by the UN (PHOTO)
El Al to launch Tel Aviv - Dubai flights next month
Kazakhstan’s third-quarter economic performance benefits from recovery of oil prices
Azerbaijan informs UNESCO, ISESCO about results of initial monitorings on liberated areas
Turkmenistan’s private sector participates in dev't of poultry farming
Iran discloses plan on creation of new jobs in Yazd Province
Destroyed Armenian positions firing at Azerbaijani army during recent hostilities shown (PHOTOS)
Central Bank of Azerbaijan discloses data from foreign exchange auction
CBI announces Iran's external debt
Azerbaijan starts to grow bananas - Azerbaijani Ministry of Agriculture
Azerbaijani servicemen help Armenians to move belongings from villages of Aghdam district (VIDEO)
PAYSIS expanding range of innovative services in Azerbaijan
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for November 24
E-Space reveals volume of EVs registered in Georgia
Azerbaijan discloses volume of tobacco harvested this season
Russian insurance agency to fund Uzbekistan’s hydrocarbon raw materials production
Iran to boost apple production
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
Income of Chinese contractor of infrastructural projects in Georgia up
We were able to get necessary international support in key issue for us - President Aliyev
LUKOIL says $40/bbl is worst case scenario for oil prices
If we had not created necessary legal framework for resolving conflict, we could have faced problems today - President Aliyev
Iran registers order at COVAX to buy vaccine
Air traffic reduces in Georgia - EUROCONTROL
Second asphalt layer of Ashgabat-Turkmenabat highway being laid
Russian Export Center discloses value of support for exports to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan's import of limestone, cement down in 10M2020
Aghdam operation was part of our plans - President Aliyev
All news