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Oscar Peterson’s big break

The Story

This is how the story goes, as described by Norman Granz in this clip. 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.

Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: June 15, 1967
Guests: Norma Granz, Norman Granz
Host: Fletcher Markle
Duration: 1:49

Did You know?

• Norman Granz, who was white, founded the JATP in 1944, motivated by his desire to break down the colour barrier.
• 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.


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