Stars say goodbye to jazz legend Oscar Peterson

Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:34am EST
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By Scott Anderson

TORONTO (Reuters) - Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Nancy Wilson were among a star-studded group of performers who gathered on Saturday for a musical farewell to jazz piano great Oscar Peterson.

"He's on his second journey. The first is birth and the second is death," Hancock said as he swiveled in his piano chair to face a giant portrait of Peterson hanging over the stage at a Toronto concert hall. "So enjoy your journey, Oscar. I wish you well."

Peterson died at his home near Toronto on December 23 of kidney failure. He was 82.

One of jazz's most recorded musicians, Peterson rose from working-class beginnings in Montreal to become a major influence on generations of musicians. His honors included a 1997 Grammy for lifetime achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award.

Peterson was remembered for his love of life, people and music at the free show, attended by more than 2,500 people who started lining up 12 hours before it began.

"He is leaving a legacy of a very, very, very strong commitment to the jazz world. What he has done is set the path for so many of us. We will have other great jazz artists coming up, but there won't ever be another Oscar Peterson," jazz pianist Oliver Jones, Peterson's friend and protege, told Reuters.

"I owe him everything. He's irreplaceable," pianist and jazz composer Hancock said before playing a somber, solo piano piece.

"I am truly thankful to God that I was able to meet someone that I admired all my life," singer and composer Stevie Wonder said in a taped message played during the ceremony. "The man played the piano so well that you could hear it sing, dance and feel every single note and chord."   Continued...

<p>Soprano Measha Brueggergosman (in blue) performs with the University of Toronto Gospel Choir and the Oscar Peterson Quartet to close out the the "Oscar Peterson - Simply the Best" memorial concert at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto January 12, 2008. The memorial concert was free admission to the public on a first come first serve basis to celebrate the life of Canadian Jazz legend Oscar Peterson, who died at the age of 82 in late December last year. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>