Oscar Peterson: Remembering the Piano Master

News | Feb, 6th 2019

On February 22–23, Céline Peterson will host six extraordinary pianists in The Appel Room to celebrate the legacy of her father, Oscar Peterson. The lineup includes an impressive array of talent including some of his former rhythm section members. 

Below they share some of their favorite memories about how knowing and working with Peterson forever changed their lives.

“In 1949, Norman Granz gave my Dad an opportunity to step onto the Carnegie Hall stage and show the audience what this 24-year-old boy from Montréal could bring out of a piano. Now 70 years later, some of the most celebrated musicians in jazz music are coming together to take us on a musical journey of Dad’s 6-decade career, and to say I am proud just does not do the feelings in my heart justice. That one night forever changed countless lives and was the beginning of a career that would inspire generations of artists in varying genres to strive for excellence and never let themselves be limited in their creativity or ability. It is a true privilege to be able to step on stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center and join these remarkable musicians as we thank my Dad for paving the way, and celebrate who he was as a pianist, a friend, a humanitarian, and a father.”

“The proudest moment for me was when I was playing in Toronto at this club called the Montréal Bistro. I had just stopped working with Dizzy and OP came to see me. There was nobody like him- his groove was tremendous, and this made me feel just proud. OP!”

"The infectious, joyful, irresistible feeling of swing that Oscar Peterson possessed is what first got me hooked on jazz. Combine that driving groove with flawless technique, beautiful lyricism, and a profound feeling for the blues, and you have one of the great musicians of the 20th century. I'm very honored to be part of this concert, celebrating Oscar's tremendous contribution to the history of Jazz."

“I was only 7 years old when I first heard Oscar Peterson Trio +1 with Clark Terry. I knew right away that I wanted to be a musician. His playing was and remains life changing. Meeting and opening for him in 2005 at the Montreux Jazz Festival was a dream come true. His music, inspiration, and advice will be with me forever.”

“Oscar Peterson was important and pivotal for a number of reasons. He took all of his influences to an extremely high level. He blended bebop (Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker), 1930s and 40s swing (Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Nat Cole), stride piano (Art Tatum, Fats Waller) and elevated the “Jazz Trio” concept in a way that continues to work as a template for current musicians. I heard Ray Brown with Oscar Peterson and witnessed their connection, aurally and visually. Playing the songs that they did together always feels as if a cloud of their spirit had entered my body. It’s easy for me to get swept up by the fog that emanates from their music as I slip on their shoes.”

“Mr. Oscar Peterson has provoked respect, admiration, and inspiration in musicians of different generations, nationalities, and cultivators of different languages and musical vocabularies. I am always moved by the light that overflows out of each one of the Maestro’s artistic confections.”

"Oscar Peterson was my first love on the piano. I remember being 6 or 7 years old, listening to Night Train and Oscar Peterson Trio + One Clark Terry, acting out the music with my toys. I felt a profound connection to Oscar’s expression right away- that joyous bounce in his beat, those luscious chords, crystal clear melodies, and his incredible facility on the instrument. It all makes for a sound that’s at once deeply relatable and otherworldly."

“Sometimes your dreams come through! Mine did in 1997 when I was asked to join Oscar Peterson Quartet! For a guitar player that’s the highest honor you can imagine - following in the footsteps of jazz guitar legends as Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel. It was a pivotal moment in my life! I saw Oscar Peterson with Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen when I was 15 years old at the concert house in my hometown Gothenburg-Sweden. That was a life changer for me! Besides the amazing music I remember that Oscar pointed at Joe and Niels and said “Take a bow!” 25-years later he pointed at me and said “Take a bow!” Pure magic!

Perhaps a bit differently than most, I first became aware of Oscar Peterson on the albums he made on Verve which found him accompanying singers, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, and Anita O'Day. Instantly noticeable on those albums was his style and spirit and I then immediately saturated my ears with the rest of his immense body of work. In addition to the precision of his technical skills which are singular and formidable, OP possessed that which is perhaps most impressive and most important as an artist. Among every lick and within every note, there is an expression of joy ever-present. There is a palpable sense of his prideful spirit, fully accessible, always communicative, and wholly joyous. Infectious joy.

Be sure to join us for Piano Master: The Oscar Peterson Story February 22-23 in The Appel Room or watch the Livestream (February 22nd only).

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