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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