Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Late, Great Oscar Peterson

The technical brilliance, unprecedented speed and hard-driving swing of Peterson's best work inspired generations of artists. But it also drove them to despair, for they knew Peterson's feats could not be matched, much less topped.
--The Austrailian

Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard.
--Count Basie

I recently wrote about the incomparable Art Tatum, a jazz pianist of stupendous skill and improvisational ability. But, actually, there is one jazz pianist who may have been his equal or at least close to it. His name was Oscar Peterson. He died Sunday from kidney failure at his Canadian home at the age of 82.

When Peterson was growing up, Art Tatum was his idol, but Peterson soon became an idol for countless jazz pianists in his own right and played with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespe, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Itzhak Perlman.

The jazz reviewer Leonard Feather wrote that Peterson could "extract the gentlest whimper, the profoundest roar or the deepest indigo wails from his keyboard." Duke Ellington called him "Maharajah of the keyboard." And, after witnessing a Peterson performance in 1987, reviewer Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times:

"Mr. Peterson's rock-solid sense of swing, grounded in Count Basie, is balanced by a delicacy of tone and fleetness of touch that make his extended runs seem to almost disappear into the sky...His amazing speed was matched by an equally amazing sense of thematic invention."

The world has lost a great, great musician.

Oscar Peterson--You Look Good to Me

Oscar Peterson Trio--Goodbye

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