For Christmas this year my wife bought me a season of the Simpson’s TV show. In one show the Simpson family visited Toronto for the 2002 episode The Bart Wants What It Wants, Ontario Premier Mike Harris welcomed the family to the city in advance and suggested in an official news release, “Lisa can jam with Oscar Peterson on her saxophone.”
Oscar Peterson is a legendary Canadian jazz pianist, whose 50-year career took him from 1950s Montreal jazz club to New York’s Carnegie Hall. He has taken his Final Taxi this week.
Recording almost 200 albums (and such works as 1962’s Night Train and 1964’s Canadiana Suite), Peterson played alongside such other jazz giants as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
He received eight Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award in 1997, as well as the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement.
Nicknamed “The Brown Bomber of Boogie-Woogie” or simply “O.P.,” the African-Canadian was born Oscar Emmanuel Peterson on August 15, 1925 in Montreal’s St. Henri neighborhood. He was the son of a Canadian National railroad porter.
He began his recording career in the mid-1940s with records for RCA. He toured from the 1950s until the late 190s, he toured as a member of the group “Jazz at the Philharmonic.”
The co-founder of the Advanced School of Contemporary Music,” he was honored with the IMC-UNESCO Music Award in November 2000.
In 1993, he and Warren “Slim” Williams shared the Gemini — Canada’s equivalent of the Emmy — for Best Original Music Score for a Program or Mini-Series for In the Key of Oscar. That year, he had a stroke in 1993 that restricted the use of his left hand.
He composed film and TV scores, winning a Genie award for best film score in 1978 for The Silent Partner.
Inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995, Peterson was the recipient of hundreds of prizes from the jazz community.
Canada Post honored his contribution to music with a 50-cent stamp issued on his 80th birthday in 2005.
He was awarded the Officer of the Order of Canada on June 23, 1972 and the Companion of the Order of Canada on June 25, 1984 for his services to music.