Voices at Large

Oscar Peterson's Legacy


As you have probably already heard, just two days before Christmas the music world lost a towering giant of the jazz piano, Oscar Peterson, to kidney failure. He was 82.

Possessing a supernatural technique that was inspired by and perhaps only matched by his greatest influence, Art Tatum, Peterson's dazzling jazz piano virtuosity has, throughout his long career, caused many a jaw to meet the floor. But to focus only on the technical aspect of Peterson's pyrotechnic piano style is to miss much of the point.

No matter what he played and no matter how fast, or slow, he played it, the man always swung! It is this singular combination of technique and swing -- delivering an accessible, joyful piano style that artfully obliterated any boundaries between the bebop and swing styles -- that made Peterson's piano playing so exciting and enjoyable.

As influential as he is inimitable, Peterson left behind a mountain of monumental recordings. For a concise yet jam-packed introduction, check out the 2-CD collection Perfect Peterson: The Best of the Pablo and Telarc Recordings. Next, treat your ears to some of the many timeless Peterson collaborations -- from the classic Pablo sessions teaming Peterson with trumpet legends Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Faddis, and Freddie Hubbard to fantastic piano duet romps with Count Basie and Peterson protegee Benny Green.

And don't forget the Oscar Peterson Trio recordings featuring Ray Brown and Herb Ellis (or Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and Joe Pass) and The Very Tall Band recordings on Telarc featuring Milt Jackson and Ray Brown. Peterson the composer is beautifully spotlighted on Trail Of Dreams: A Canadian Suite, featuring a 24-piece string orchestra. For additional insight into the man and his music, be sure to check out Oscar's performances and conversations with Marian McPartland on his Piano Jazz appearance.

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