Oscar Peterson's big break
Oscar Peterson was a giant in every sense of the word. Standing well over six feet tall, he'd even been mistaken for a football player. But there's no mistaking his brilliance on the keyboard. His dazzling technique combined with his swinging style made the Montreal native, as one critic remarked, the best damn jazz pianist in the whole world. Oscar Peterson died on December 23, 2007. He was 82.
In 1949 on a cold night in Montreal, celebrated American jazz promoter Granz hails a taxi to Dorval Airport.
He settles into the cab, when his ears perk up to the hot sound of swinging jazz on the radio. Granz asks the driver about the music.
The cabbie tells Granz that it's the Oscar Peterson Trio playing live at the Alberta Lounge.
The taxi does a 180 and drives directly to the club. Granz meets Peterson for the first time and the rest is the stuff of jazz legend.
Granz is the remarkable founder of Jazz At The Philharmonic (JATP) featuring the who's who of jazz including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Granz invites Peterson to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall with JATP. It's the chance of a lifetime and young Peterson delivers the goods.
Critics are bowled over. One headline reads "Oscar Sets New York Back on Its Heels."
Peterson's brilliant debut at Carnegie kick starts his international career.
• Granz became one of Peterson's closest friends as well as his manager. Peterson even named one of his sons after him.
• Granz encouraged Peterson to write Hymn to Freedom. Peterson said the composition was his protest against segregation and racism he witnessed in the United States.
• Over his long career Peterson had numerous trios but he met bassist Ray Brown, one third of his famous Oscar Peterson Trio, at his Carnegie debut with JATP. Brown was married to singer Ella Fitzgerald at the time.
• When asked about his greatest achievement by CBC's Valerie Pringle, Oscar Peterson answered: his trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis on guitar. They played together from 1953 to 1958.
Broadcast Date: June 15, 1967
Guest(s): Norma Granz, Norman Granz
Host: Fletcher Markle
Last updated: January 27, 2012
Page consulted on December 18, 2012
All Clips from this Topic
Eighteen-year-old Oscar Peterson delivers a crowd-pleasing performance...
Young Oscar Peterson talks about his unique 'walking boogie' technique...
Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Phil Nimmons talk about establishing the...
Oscar Peterson defends white jazz musicians.
Montreal's own wows jazz impresario Norman Granz.
Remembering some unforgettable pranks on the road.
Bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis on their relationship with ...
A relaxed Oscar Peterson muses about his fame, Canada and Frank Sinatr...
Nurturing young Oscar Peterson's phenomenal talent.
Young Oscar blossoms with the Johnny Holmes Orchestra.
Away from the limelight, Oscar unwinds at the Peterson cottage.
CBC's Peter Gzowski drops in for a visit with Oscar Peterson.
Dr. Peterson looks back at his long and illustrious career.
Oscar Peterson receives the Glenn Gould Prize.
Peterson talks about why it took 17 years to write his autobiography.
Oscar Peterson was a giant in every sense of the word. Standing well o...