Famous Piano Players: Oscar Peterson


OK, first of all, I have to thank James for his comment on my earlier post – he got me to go check out Oscar Peterson playing with Andre Previn on YouTube, and it is phenomenal. Check out the duet, starting at about 2:45 into the video:


Andre Previn is definitely the topic of another post, but this one is about Oscar Peterson – at least just a little bit.

I had one chance to see Oscar play in Cincinnati, years ago. I had tickets for the concert, but he was unable to play that night, due to an illness.

I was crushed.

Especially since I never made an effort to go see him again.

Oscar Peterson is a soft-spoken, intelligent, super-disciplined piano genius. Although he was friends with and idolized the great Art Tatum, he made it a point never to copy him, but rather to chart his own course with his playing. His technical skills were just unbelievable.

But don’t think the music just flowed out of his fingers effortlessly. He practiced like you wouldn’t believe.

From an interview with Les Tomkins in 1962, courtesy of JazzProfessional.com (http://www.jazzprofessional.com/interviews/Oscar%20Peterson_Points.htm), here’s what Oscar had to say about practicing:

When I’m home, or even on a location job with the Trio, I practice on average two to four hours every day if I can. If not, every second day.

When he’s playing with a group:

That usually takes place at the end of each nightly performance, and in a night club we play until about 2 in the morning. Then we’ll probably rehearse from 2 until about 7 a.m.

Yes, it all seems so effortless when you see the end result, but no one pays much attention to the amount of dedication, discipline and work someone like Oscar pours into his profession.

And not many other people are willing to put in that level of work themselves, which is what put Oscar at the top of his field.

You can read all about Oscar’s life at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Peterson) or other sources, but I really wanted to just draw your attention to this amazing television interview with Andre Previn (not sure about the year, but it was maybe 30-40 years ago, I’m guessing).

Oscar is so articulate and pleasant to listen to, and his playing is just phenomenal.

Here’s a link to the YouTube search results, which should list all 6 parts for you:


I can’t recommend these videos more highly.

I also recommend you listen to all the Oscar Peterson – solo or with a group – you can get your hands on.


  • Gina says:

    I saw Oscar Peterson in a solo concert at the University of Western Ontario auditorium back in the late sixties or early seventies.

    The ticket cost 50 cents!

    Eat your heart out.

    P.S. Round about the same time (pun intended!), I saw Thelonius Monk in a nightclub in Toronto. We had a mezzanine table right over the piano area. Wow.

    • Bill says:

      AAAHHHH!! I AM eating my heart out! That’s awesome!

      I REALLY wanted to see Chick Corea and Bela Fleck in St. Louis this weekend, but I’ll be playing my own gig in Joplin, MO. Ah, the musician’s life…

      • Gina says:

        A few years later, the drummer Billy Cobham played some gigs in our town (London, Ontario), and I had the only decent restaurant there, so every night after the concert he would have dinner at my place — with a different (young, female) groupie. That was 40 years ago and the guy is still going strong!

        • Bill says:

          Awesome! I sat about 5 feet from Oscar’s guitarist, Herb Ellis, one night for a whole set in St. Louis. When I asked him for advice for a young pianist, he said Oscar told him, “Sing what you play.” Turns out that’s great advice – helps tremendously with phrasing while improvising.

  • Luppy says:

    Nice find man. So dope!

  • >