Sunday 12 June 2016

Oscar Peterson: Maharaja of the Keyboard

Oscar Peterson was born and raised in Montreal to immigrants from the West Indies.  Peterson's father worked as a porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Growing up in an all black neighbourhood and surrounded by the jazz culture, Peterson first learned how to play the trumpet.  However, a bout of tuberculosis forced him to give up the horn for the piano.  His sister, Daisy, was one of his first piano teachers.  Peterson also studied under Hungarian born classical pianist Paul de Marky.  Thanks to his persistent practice of four to six hours per day, Peterson mastered the art.

At the age of fourteen, Peterson won a CBC national music competition and quit school to pursue music fulltime.  Peterson, drawn to jazz, was heavily influenced by Teddy Wilson, Nat King Cole, James P. Johnson and Art Tatum.  The young talent made his first recordings, I Got Rhythm and The Sheik of Araby, for RCA Victor in 1945.

Peterson was introduced to American audience through Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1949.  Peterson's first tour of Europe took place in 1952.  He made more than 200 albums with other bands or artists including "Ella and Oscar" with Ella Fitzgerald.  Peterson left his mark on Duke Ellington who called him the "Maharaja of the Keyboard".  Canadiana Suite, which came out in 1964, was a nod to Peterson's home and native land.  While he was an international success, he would never forget his Canadian roots.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to obtain some of his works. I would not have guessed he was Canadian. Thank you for sharing.