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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 08:00 GMT
Tributes paid to Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Peterson has received all of Canada's highest honours

Tributes have been paid to jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson, after his death of kidney failure at his home in Toronto, at the age of 82.

Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean, said he was a "national treasure". Fellow pianist, Diana Krall, said he was "my person I looked up to".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had been a "bright light of jazz".

Peterson was one of jazz's most recorded musicians, and was famous for his fast-playing virtuoso style.

He made more than 200 albums and won eight Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement honour in 1997.

He released his first single at the age of 19 and performed with greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Nat "King" Cole.

He was a wonderful player, prodigious technique, fantastic ideas and a very humble man
Sir John Dankworth
British saxophonist

The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame announced last month that it was to present the star with its Founder's Award in 2008.

This was to celebrate "a brilliant jazz pianist and composer" who showed "musical dexterity and energetic performances", it said.

Peterson, who had a working-class upbringing in Montreal, won a talent contest organised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) when he was 14 years old.

Giant of jazz

"The world has lost an important jazz player," Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, and Peterson's close friend, told CBC News.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Peterson a "technical and creative master".

Oscar Peterson in 1958
The star shot to fame by winning a CBC talent contest at the age of 14

A former premier of Ontario - and long-time friend Bob Rae - described Peterson as "a giant of jazz", who had more than his musical genius.

"In his own life, he'd been very much involved in human rights and civil rights as a young man, he was obviously very aware of discrimination as it affected him.

"He played a lot in the US at the time when America was coming out of segregation in the south, so he was very much involved in those struggles."

Diana Krall said Oscar Peterson had been "the reason I became a jazz pianist".

"We all know he was the greatest living jazz pianist after Art Tatum," she said.

"That's my person I looked up to most in my whole life who also happened to be Canadian."

The British saxophonist Sir John Dankworth, who also worked with Peterson said: "Oscar was a wonderful example of jazz at its best. He was a wonderful player, prodigious technique, fantastic ideas and a very humble man."

Peterson's studio and live partners included Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Stan Getz.

Oscar Peterson in 1971
Peterson played with Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie

Basie once described Peterson as someone who "plays the best ivory box I've ever heard", while Ellington referred to him as "Maharajah of the keyboard".

Gifted at improvisation, Peterson said in 2005 how live free-form jazz could enable "moments of great beauty to emerge".

He was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour, and he was the first living Canadian to be depicted on a stamp.

According to CBC, Peterson was married four times and had six children from his first and third marriages and one daughter, Celine, with his fourth wife, Kelly.

SEE ALSO
Jazz legend Oscar Peterson dies
25 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Oscar Peterson
24 Dec 07 |  Entertainment

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