One of the most admired pianists in jazz, Oscar Peterson has rightfully claimed the same sort of status as earlier greats such as James P. Johnson, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans. Possibly the most successful artist produced by Canada, he appeared on well over 200 albums spanning six decades and won numerous awards, including eight Grammys. During his career he performed and recorded with, among others, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker. He was beyond doubt an authentic jazz piano virtuoso, with a remarkable and prolific legacy of recordings and performances.
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC, CQ, O.Ont was born on August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec.He began learning trumpet and piano from his father at the age of five, but by the age of seven, after a bout of tuberculosis, he concentrated on the piano. Some of the artists who influenced Peterson during the early years were Teddy Wilson, Nat "King" Cole, James P. Johnson and the legendary Art Tatum, to whom many have tried to compare Peterson in later years. In fact, one of his first exposures to the musical talents of Tatum came early in his teen years when his father played a Tatum record to him and Peterson was so intimidated by what he heard that he did not touch the piano for over a week.
Peterson has also credited his sister Daisy, a noted piano teacher in Montreal who also taught several other noted Canadian jazz musicians, with being an important teacher and influence on his career.
He soon developed a reputation as a technically brilliant and melodically inventive jazz pianist, and became a regular on Canadian radio. His United States introduction was at Carnegie Hall, New York City in 1949 by Norman Granz; owing to union restrictions his appearance could not be billed.
An important step in his career was joining impresario Norman Granz's labels (especially Verve records) and Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic package. Granz discovered Peterson in a peculiar manner: as the impresario was being taken to the Montreal airport by cab, the radio was playing a live broadcast of Peterson at a local night club. He was so smitten by what he heard that he ordered the driver to take him to the club so he could meet the pianist. So was born a lasting relationship, and Granz remained Peterson's manager for most of the latter's career. Through Granz's Jazz at the Philarmonic he was able to play with the major jazz artists of the time: some of his musical associates have included Ray Brown, Ben Webster, Milt Jackson, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Ed Thigpen, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Louis Armstrong, Stéphane Grappelli, Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry, Joe Pass, Count Basie, and Stan Getz.