National Treasure #148: Oscar Peterson

One of Canada’s most honoured musicians, Oscar Peterson was widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. A highly accomplished soloist renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style, he earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.”
The Canadian Encyclopedia

Like Harry Wasylyk, Oscar Peterson was born in 1925. There the comparisons stop. While Wasylyk gets one of those 4-line Wikipedia entries, Peterson gets one of the longest entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia that I’ve seen:

  • Early years and education
  • Early career
  • Canada’s first jazz star
  • American introduction
  • Career highlights (focused on his performing career)
  • Compositions
  • Style and approach
  • Praise and criticism
  • Influence on other pianists
  • Career as educator
  • Radio and TV broadcasts
  • Canadian sideman
  • Personal life
  • Honours
  • Awards
  • Writings
  • Discography

About those awards:

  • 2 Juno awards
  • 8 Grammy awards, including one for lifetime achievement
  • 15 honorary degrees
  • 41 other awards

The miscellaneous honours are interesting for their diversity alone.

In 2002, he became the first person inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Urban Music Association of Canada. In 2003, Mississauga named a street Oscar Peterson Boulevard, and the government of Austria issued a stamp in his honour. In 2005, a public school in Mississauga was named after him, and Canada Post made him the first living person other than a reigning monarch to appear on a stamp. – The Canadian Encyclopedia

The discography is also a little startling.

. . . a prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death [in 2007] . . . and “He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.”

Want more?  Check out his site, read this biography, and watch these YouTube videos:

Piano Lesson

C Jam Blues

Hymn to Freedom (Peterson composition)

Honky Tonk Train Blues (with Keith Emerson)



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10 Responses to National Treasure #148: Oscar Peterson

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Oscar Peterson’s “Canadiana Suite” is one of the greatest jazz compositions ever! Thanks, Isabel

  2. Laurna Tallman says:

    Thanks for shaming me into learning more about my least favourite genre in music. I appreciate the links and will listen up!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – No shame, surely: Jazz isn’t my favourite genre, either, but we can always learn new appreciations.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    Think of it this way: Jazz is the best music there is!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – OK, Laurna, there you go. Tom says it’s the best. I’ll give it another try if you will.

  4. Tom Watson says:

    I’ll put on a little Dave Brubeck “Take Five” or a Duke Ellington “Take The A Train” while you give it some thought.

  5. Tom Watson says:

    By the way…and you won’t know the whole story behind this…but I have played in jazz bands, small combos, and bands as big as 18 pieces, since I was 15. I doubt there’s a genre I don’t like. Well, I might stop short of punk rock, and some real “hurtin'” country doesn’t appeal much.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – It’s been my experience that musicians like all (or almost all) musical genres. Thanks for another data point to support my thesis.

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