What a loss. What a life. What an inspiration

How appropriate that Oscar Peterson left this world on the eve of Christmas. The 82 year-old piano legend was a gift to the world. Attempting to reflect on what he gave us you are struck by the totality of happiness, awe and inspiration he provided to millions with his unique and groundbreaking sound.

Having seen him, finally, at Yoshi’s in Oakland last year, I feel very lucky. For me, attending that performance was one of those "before you die" experiences.

His is one of those lives that, upon considering its content, provokes one to consider just how much one can make of their life. Clearly the answer is a more than is often imaginable. He reminds us that while we ought to work to experience as much as possible in our short time, we ought also to spend this life trying to inspire others. That is to say, the man led a model life.

Of all the Oscar Peterson recordings I am most taken by "My Favorite Instrument". The solo recording from 1968 is arresting. From "Perdido", "A Train" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" to "Little Girl Blue and Someone to Watch Over Me", Peterson is entirely conjoined with his instrument as he moves through a collection of standards that  are taken over by his genius and reinterpreted.

Herbie Hancock said of Peterson, "I consider him the major influence that formed my roots in jazz
piano playing. He mastered the balance between technique, hard blues
grooving, and tenderness. … No one will ever be able to take his

What a loss. What a life. What an inspiration.

Posted In: Personal


7 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - December 25, 2007

    Take it from someone who studied and plays the ivories…few fit the Oscar Peterson mold, but if one is still around it’s Herbie Hancock.

  2. Christopher Jay - December 26, 2007

    This was such a shock to me as my generation and my fathers generation grew up with his music and whenever possible we would tune Oscar in…. he will be sadly missed by more than a few generations.
    All the best

  3. dfredman - December 26, 2007

    Saw him perform back in the Pablo days (early 1980’s) in Los Angeles on a bill with Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Count Basie Orchestra. Peterson was great that night as a solo performer, with a trio, and accompanying the other headliners. His playing was inspiring, awe-inspiring and formative, even though I’d long since abandoned piano for the bass.

  4. JohnLopresti - December 26, 2007

    Now I got to find out how to configure the new CD so I can refresh the memory about OscarPeterson. As a kid I remember waiting until the folks were out and just us kids were at home, so I could play their Bessie Smith record; heck, they even fumed if they came home unexpectedly and found the Caruso records on the spindle. Just got to like good music. I would go way beyond Herbie Hancock if I started mentioning interesting sounds here, but condolences to you, TW, for having lost a muse. You would think a piano is easy to find, but, gee, I seem to have left mine up the road. Except for the practice electronic keyboard, which is a way of joining soul to the elements. As good as a nicely mellowed cabernet. Got to call the cab, now.

  5. Julian - December 27, 2007

    He has always been one of my favorite jazz pianists… I especially like the 2 disc set “Oscar in Paris”. And around this time of year, he has a neat Christmas album.

  6. Joe M - January 1, 2008

    Man, what a loss. Herbie’s description of Mr. Peterson is right on the mark. I regret never having seen him perform, but will have to compensate by bulking up on my Oscar Peterson collection. And listening closely. And hopefully one day putting forth the study and practice to attain even a fraction of his technique, playfulness and consummate good taste.

  7. David Vergari - January 7, 2008

    Every now and then, I’ll hear a piece of music for the first time, stop what I am doing to just listen and smile at the discovery of something very special. Oscar Peterson had that effect.

Leave a Reply