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OSCAR PETERSON was born on August 15, 1925, in Montreal, Canada. Peterson was the fourth of five children, and their father wasted no time in starting each of them on the piano; Peterson studied with the Hungarian classical pianist Paul deMarky.
Shortly afterward, he was signed by RCA Victor and made several concert tours across Canada, also doing a stint in the Johnny Holmes Orchestra as a featured pianist. In 1947, Peterson formed his first Canadian trio. It was during one of the trio’s appearances that impresario Norman Granz heard him and enticed him into making an appearance with his all-star concert troupe known as “Jazz at the Philharmonic.”
In 1950, Peterson was awarded the Down Beat award for the best jazz pianist of the year, an award he would receive 12 times. During this busy period, Peterson still found the time to form a jazz school in Toronto, which became known as the Advanced School of Contemporary Music and attracted students from all over the world.
He has recorded with most of the jazz greats over the years, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, and others. Peterson’s first recording for Telarc Jazz, The Legendary Oscar Peterson Trio - Live at the Blue Note, was the recipient of the 1990 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Group Instrumental Performance. In 2001, Telarc releases a compilation focused on the hauntingly beautiful ballads written by Peterson over the past 10 years.
Peterson’s other compositions include his Hymn to Freedom, which became one of the crusade hymns during the civil rights movement, and his more recent endeavor, Fields of Endless Day, which traces the escape railroad used by blacks escaping to Canada during the slavery era. He recently completed a commission for a salute to Johann Sebastian Bach for trio and orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. Peterson was also commissioned by Music Canada 2000 to write The Trail of Dreams Suite, an ambitious project depicting the
different places and people of Canada.