Skip to main content

I opened my email today and found an alert from the CBC stating that this true piano playing genius has left this earth to go join that incredible jam session in the sky.

For those of you unfamiliar with jazz, Oscar was one of the legends of jazz piano.  He was born in Montreal and went on to play the world.  He was a performer in the Jazz at the Philharmonic sessions and concerts (which had to cancel shows in the 40s and 50s rather than play in front of a segregated audience)

Oscar came from the rough and tumble segregated streets of Montreal's Little Burgundy.  But in addition to a rough and tumble atmosphere, it was home to jazz culture.  Oscar had started on piano and trumpet, but piano lovers thank the tuberculosis that led Oscar to focus his attention only on the piano.  Oscar played a jazz piano to sound not like a trumpet or clarinet but like a piano.  Reading his history one of his teachers had studied under Franz Liszt - which explains why he had a such a classical styled virtuosity of the entire piano.  Oscar also strived to reach the jazz piano levels set by Art Tatum.  He (along with his trio of Herb Ellis and Ray Brown) were a tour de force.  You watched him play and wondered if he had six fingers on each hand.  In 1993 he had a stroke, but he came back and still played better than most who never had a stroke.

Oscar holds a special piece in my heart.  Not only since he's one of the best ever Canadian musicians (to play on my patriotic strings) or since I'm a piano player since I was 5 (sitting and playing in a Sheraton hotel bar in suburban Vancouver in October after 10 months of not playing, I still was at a level good enough to get a complimentary scotch from the bar).  He was part of my growing into adulthood - from watching "Oscar Peterson: Music in the Key of Oscar" in a first year Canadian Studies course at university, to his helping me indirectly learn more about the jazz masters, to finding a book of his standards in a German bookstore...and then proceeding to play "Hymn to Freedom" for an Australian girl I liked at the time, to being there when I at peaks and pinnacles of life but also at nadirs and valleys.  His showmanship and ability to just shred a piano was something that often left me in jaw-dropping awe.  And for my own jazz playing riffs, I played and replayed his CDs numerous times after hearing a "Did he play what I thought he did?" moments and copied some of them as an homage.

Goodbye - and may you join the jazz jam with those who went before you, while at the same time joining all those classical virtuosi who are likely giving a great concert.

Other information on Oscar
CBC Photo gallery:

CBC Archives "Oscar Peterson: A Jazz Giant":

National Library of Canada:

Some Concert footage

You Look Good to Me

The Theme

A piece from his TV show

A concert after his stroke - still amazing

Originally posted to Thor Heyerdahl on Mon Dec 24, 2007 at 10:57 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site