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Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson was one of the greatest piano players of all time. A pianist with phenomenal technique on the level of his idol, Art Tatum, Peterson's speed, dexterity, and ability to swing at any tempo were amazing. Very effective in small groups, jam sessions, and in accompanying singers, O.P. was at his absolute best when performing unaccompanied solos. His original style did not fall into any specific idiom. Like Erroll Garner and George Shearing, Peterson's distinctive playing formed during the mid- to late '40s and fell somewhere between swing and bop. Peterson was criticized through the years because he used so many notes, didn't evolve much since the 1950s, and recorded a remarkable number of albums. Perhaps it is because critics ran out of favorable adjectives to use early in his career; certainly it can be said that Peterson played 100 notes when other pianists might have used ten, but all 100 usually fit, and there is nothing wrong with showing off technique when it serves the music. As with Johnny Hodges and Thelonious Monk, to name two, Peterson spent his career growing within his style rather than making any major changes once his approach was set, certainly an acceptable way to handle one's career. Because he was Norman Granz's favorite pianist (along with Tatum) and the producer tended to record some of his artists excessively, Peterson made an incredible number of albums. Not all are essential, and a few are routine, but the great majority are quite excellent, and there are dozens of classics.

Peterson started classical piano lessons when he was six and developed quickly. After winning a talent show at 14, he began starring on a weekly radio show in Montreal. Peterson picked up early experience as a teenager playing with Johnny Holmes' Orchestra. From 1945-1949, he recorded 32 selections for Victor in Montreal. Those trio performances find Peterson displaying a love for boogie-woogie, which he would soon discard, and the swing style of Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole. His technique was quite brilliant even at that early stage, and although he had not yet been touched by the influence of bop, he was already a very impressive player. Granz discovered Peterson in 1949 and soon presented him as a surprise guest at a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert. Peterson was recorded in 1950 on a series of duets with either Ray Brown or Major Holley on bass; his version of "Tenderly" became a hit. Peterson's talents were quite obvious, and he became a household name in 1952 when he formed a trio with guitarist Barney Kessel and Brown. Kessel tired of the road and was replaced by Herb Ellis the following year. The Peterson-Ellis-Brown trio, which often toured with JATP, was one of jazz's great combos from 1953-1958. Their complex yet swinging arrangements were competitive -- Ellis and Brown were always trying to outwit and push the pianist -- and consistently exciting. In 1958, when Ellis left the band, it was decided that no other guitarist could fill in so well, and he was replaced (after a brief stint by Gene Gammage) by drummer Ed Thigpen. In contrast to the earlier group, the Peterson-Brown-Thigpen trio (which lasted until 1965) found the pianist easily the dominant soloist. Later versions of the group featured drummers Louis Hayes (1965-1966), Bobby Durham (1967-1970), Ray Price (1970), and bassists Sam Jones (1966-1970) and George Mraz (1970).

In 1960, Peterson established the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, which lasted for three years. He made his first recorded set of unaccompanied piano solos in 1968 (strange that Granz had not thought of it) during his highly rated series of MPS recordings. With the formation of the Pablo label by Granz in 1972, Peterson was often teamed with guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels Pedersen. He appeared on dozens of all-star records, made five duet albums with top trumpeters (Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Clark Terry, and Jon Faddis), and teamed up with Count Basie on several two-piano dates. An underrated composer, Peterson wrote and recorded the impressive "Canadiana Suite" in 1964 and has occasionally performed originals in the years since. Although always thought of as a masterful acoustic pianist, Peterson has also recorded on electric piano (particularly some of his own works), organ on rare occasions, and even clavichord for an odd duet date with Joe Pass. One of his rare vocal sessions in 1965, With Respect to Nat, reveals that Peterson's singing voice was nearly identical to Nat King Cole's. A two-day reunion with Herb Ellis and Ray Brown in 1990 (which also included Bobby Durham) resulted in four CDs. Peterson was felled by a serious stroke in 1993 that knocked him out of action for two years. He gradually returned to the scene, however, although with a weakened left hand. Even when he wasn't 100 percent, Peterson was a classic improviser, one of the finest musicians that jazz has ever produced. The pianist appeared on an enormous number of records through the years. As a leader, he has recorded for Victor, Granz's Clef and Verve labels (1950-1964), MPS, Mercury, Limelight, Pablo, and Telarc. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

When you listen to Oscar Peterson, you are hearing a genius at the piano. If there were a PhD for artistry, Peeterson should have garnered many!
sciaccadani
perfection.

Along with Andre Previn my favorite jazz pianists to listen to. They are both pure genius!
If you can't keep up get the H*!! out of the way and let the man cook!!
leeandmusic
Just in Time by OP = NICE!!
leeandmusic
prefer faster jazz piano while working
THE best. Beethoven of jazz.
I have listened to this track hundreds of times. Never gets old.OP rocks.
Wow
Divine
My mother was a classically trained jazz pianist and music educator. As a result I grew up listening to the greatest music and musicians on this planet; and yes Oscar Peterson is one of the greatest of ALL times; you can truly tell that he studied Art Tatum (another piano giant). I thank God for my ear; when I hear greatness, I recognize it immediately. Thank you, God; thank you momma; and thank you Oscar Peterson for the legacy of great piano music.
I'm a musician so I appreciate this wonderful pianist..... . . . . . .
It was a treat hearing his take on The Way You Look Tonight. I first heard that tune as performed by Eddie Duchin on a 78rpm recording that my dad owned when we lived in Atlanta, and I never forgot it. I love Oscar. Never got to hear him live, but did get to perform with Joe Pass in the seventies and treasure the memories of these giants of that era.
The G O P with the G M.
bickbats
one word CHICAGO!!!!
robert_troy
The very best who has ever lived..His work with Ella/Louis are truly inspirationa l !
There is not another like him.
bertinad
I feel his music to my bones! OMG.
Beyond brilliant! Had the pleasure back in '78 of being intro'd to he & wife one night at the Ambassador north side Chicago by then touring pal Brit actress Jean Simmons for whom -he then left his dinner-took over the piano & proceeded to improv & cruise niftily thru & around some great Broadway tunes incl her 'Little Night Music' themes all of which he reworked magically for 20 mins then kissed her hand said that was for you dear lady! Soooo memorably NICE & COOL --and classy!
OUT STANDING !!!!
Peterson plays Sinatra is my favorite.
He played, while others watched.
THE MAN of the Keyboards.
OSCAR PETERSON IS DEFINITELY THE BEST KEYBOARD PLAYER I EVER HEARD. i DO AGREE JODAN RUDESS IS EXCELLENT TOO ALONG WITH HERBIE HANCOCK AND CHICK COREA. ITS JUST OSCAR STOOD OUT OVER THOSE GREATS WITH HIS SPEED AND ACCURACY.
hawkinsch60
Absolutely the best jazz pianist of all time. Wish he was still with us. Where oh where did all the great musicians go?
My all time favorite! I swear Wheatlands makes me tear up!
mwp1212
I saw Oscar in a live concert in Boston back in the 80s. He had his own Bosendorfer grand piano, with extra bass notes. Whether it added anything to his performance or not is hard to say. But he was excellent.
carlottatorr i j o s
Grew up listening to Oscar... Always love it and always will
great jazz piano Oscar.
Tough to comment,just beautiful
One of the great innovations of Oscar Peterson's style is his
upright Bass technique where he uses the left hand to provide
his improvisatio n with upright Bass phrasing. He uses this technique
a lot when he plays solo piano.
I have played classical piano for almost 70 years because the music is so beautiful, especially Chopin. But, then there is the one and only...Oscar Peterson.
if you want to hear something pick up o.p playing and fred astaire dancing will blow your mind
Cool

shapiro.len
dclark235 must think Oscar is alive. he passed away in the not too distant past but he plays for us on cds.
When Oscar swung, it would almost make me wince it was so hard. Miss him and Joe so much.
dclark235
I just love Oscar Peterson he can play for me any day or any night...I just love him and his piano playing...wi t h all his notes.
donsimon5690
Never had a peer or parralel.I saw him@ every opportunity and there will never be another like him. He defies description.
I am sure someone will know if Lucky Peterson Is Oscar's son. I have seen him a few times, Lucky, that is, and think he's very, very good.
The Petersen -Basie collaboratio n s were magical. Petersen flying all over the keyboard, and Basie's one note chords, were examples of how varying styles compliment each other. Try and get some of the Pablo recordings, you won't be disappointed .
One of the best musical nights of my life was sitting front row at Bubba's in Ft. Lauderdale and watch OP play 2 sets. Magical..
One of the best ever on the piano! Love OP! Still grabbin' bits and pieces of his stuff to add to my repetoire! Make no mistake...th e r e is only one OP!
egoodwin99
Crazy fingers that made a piano part of him. Nothin' better!
Pure legend
Love Oscar Peterson! always swingin', always mellow. Great as background music w/ friends & cocktails or when I'm relaxing alone. Anytime, anywhere I hear Oscar Peterson playing anything I immediately become aware that I'm hearing a true Jazz master!
OP was one of the greatest of our time. Still love to listen to him.
boycejf
This piano master is bringing tears to my eyes. My first taste of this magic
As much a master as his hero Art Tatum.
Peterson WAS the greatest players of all time? When did they decide that he's not anymore?
He was beyond words!!
Peterson...w h a t an absolute monster on the keys he was. My mom turned me onto him, and I'm glad that she did! Even though predominantl y keyboard, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) is a legend in his own right...chec k him out. I put him at the same elite level as O.P. Both his band and solo material are phenomenal.
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