December 24, 2007 / 5:53 PM / 11 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.

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

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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