December 24, 2007 / 5:53 PM / 10 years ago

Jazz piano legend Oscar Peterson dead at 82

TORONTO (Reuters) - Oscar Peterson, who sat atop the world of jazz piano for decades with his driving two-handed swing, technical wizardry and rapid-fire solos, died on Sunday of kidney failure, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported. He was 82.

<p>Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson performs during the Gala night at the 39th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, late July 16, 2005. REUTERS/Jean-Bernard Sieber</p>

One of jazz’s most recorded musicians, both as leader and accompanist, Peterson came from working class beginnings in Montreal -- where his father let him pursue music only if he promised to be “the best” -- to become a major influence on generations of top-flight musicians.

Since blasting onto the world stage with a famous appearance at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1949, the beefy high school dropout amassed armfuls of honorary degrees and awards, including a 1997 Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award.

Canada made him a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, as well as the first living Canadian to be depicted on a stamp.

Reporting by Jeffrey Jones

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