“He just drove the whole bus,” said Senator Tommy Banks, a jazz pianist who once played a duet version of “Satin Doll” with Peterson on a live TV broadcast.
“He was the kindest, gentlest, most forgiving person on the face of the earth, but when you sit down to paint next to Picasso it’s fairly daunting. It was frightening.
“He generated enormous swing.”
Tracy Biddle, whose late father Charles was a close friend of Peterson’s and a pillar of the Montreal jazz community, was floored when she heard the news.
“He really put Montreal on the map of jazz,” Biddle said in an interview in Montreal. “I believe that on a grander scale, the impact he had on the black community and on the whole musical community was huge.”
“He broke out of Canada. He’s one of the first people. We talk of Celine Dion and Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette and Bryan Adams. Oscar Peterson did what they did years ago as a black person. So what he’s done is incredible.”
“Enormous swing”, an unparalleled impact on his field, his community and his nation, and no little respect. A legend and icon has passed. May the memory of his many, many accomplishments, musical and otherwise, never fade.
Update: More from Richard Harrington, Richard Severo (who notes the “critical ambivalence” Peterson faced from some within the jazz establishment) and the Associated Press, which quotes French President
Nicolai Nicolas Sarkozy: “[O]ne of the bright lights of jazz has gone out.”
Update 3 12.25: former Ontario Premier and current federal Liberal candidate Bob Rae on Peterson’s expansive legacy, noting that Peterson “broke tradition by insisting on playing to mixed audiences in the American South in the 1950’s. His song “[Hymn] to Freedom” became a mainstay of the civil rights movement.”
This one goes out to you, Bob, and to my brothers and sisters of colour: an interpretation of Peterson’s classic civil rights anthem, as performed by Jim Hession.