Listening to Oscar Peterson race across the keyboard to begin “Chicago Blues” on the album The Trio featuring Peterson with jazz luminary Joe Pass on guitar and Niels Penderson on bass, feels like you’re racing along a mountain road, never quite knowing what’s around the next corner, unsure at even what speed the looming moment will take. His fingers, his furious fingers, toss musical ideas, nay, entire musical concepts in an instant. New Orleans rides into bop. A twelve bar gospel blues, in a cascading ripple of notes.
Oscar Peterson died at age 82 in Canada, and with his passing, our musical language suffers a loss never to be filled. Peterson was a tireless fountain of music, so much information contained in a single measure, a set of harmonic encyclopedias in a single song. He was a brilliant accompanist, from his work with Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to Stan Getz, or his sublime moments with Ella Fitzgerald. He is one for whom the accolade legend is too light a word.
It was almost this time last year we lost James Brown, and too many since then. If Oscar Peterson hasn’t graced your life, there is no finer time than now. All good music touches the heart, but Peterson’s was one of the rare musics that also stirred the mind. Commence to missing him.