Oscar Peterson – the man, his music and his instrument

By Matt Micucci

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time – Oscar Peterson, known to his friends as simply O.P., and by Duke Ellington he was the “Maharaja of the Keyboard”.

Peterson had a career that lasted around 60 years. During this time, he won eight Grammy Awards and countless other accolades. He also developed a distinctive style that was influenced by jazz just as much as classical music – a fact for which he credited his sister, a piano teacher in Montreal who also taught many other Canadian jazz pianists, and Art Tatum, from whom he absorbed pianism and aesthetic as well as his influences – notably the piano concertos by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Céline Peterson, Oscar Peterson’s daughter, hosts a celebration of Oscar’s life and music and the launch of the new CD Oscar, With Love with some of the best pianists in Canada and around the globe, who will gather to play some of his greatest compositions live in Koerner Hall in Toronto, Canada on December 12, 2015. Those unable to attend will be able to stream it live here ->http://www.rcmusic.ca/livestream<-

The event is entitled Oscar @ 90, and will feature such names as Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, Gerald Claytonand Kenny Barron and a host of others, reunite with Oscar’s piano, which is being transported to the RCM for this special night, to play the songs they recorded for the legendary pianist. This is a big deal – Oscar Peterson cared deeply about his instrument, which he had handpicked himself and was a product of great Austrian manufacturers Bösendorfer.

Bösendorfer also has a special treat in store for those attending the upcoming edition fo Winter NAMM, the largest trade-only event for the music product industry which will be taking place in Anaheim, California on January 21-24 – The Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition piano, paying homage to the late jazz icon, that is capable of recreating “live” performances originally recorded by Oscar Peterson himself.

But Peterson seems to have been just as interested about the future, and in the seventies he handpicked handpicked Bösendorfer Imperial Piano, which also represented, as it still does, a technological feat – that of faithfully recreating note-for-note the performances that Peterson himself had personally recorded in the seventies on the Pianocoder, the most advanced reproducingpiano technology of that era.

The digital recordings which captured extremely accurate key and pedal data of Peterson’s performances are meticulously rescued and converted to a modern day format, enjoyed once again thanks to the Disklavier E3 technology built into the limited edition Bösendorfer piano. With a touch of a button, the instrument’s keys and pedals come alive, moving up and down to recreate the sound of the original performances, which include Billy Strayhorn’s Take the A Train, Richard Rodgers’ Falling in Love with Love, Honeysuckle Rose by Fats Waller, Misty by Erroll Garner and Someone to Watch Over Me by George Gershwin to name but a few.

The faithfulness of the reproduction of these recordings can be testified by Kelly Peterson herself, the wife of the late legendary pianist, who had a chance to preview them. She described the experience as very emotional, and stated that “tears surprised me as the first notes resonated on the piano. […] The best part was being able to stand at the keyboard in oscar’s spot and hear the performance from his perspective.”

Only 12 Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition pianos will be available for sale worldwide, and at the price of $189,999. “This Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition is steeped in jazz history and in the company’s rich european musical legacy […] We are proud to offer this piano with Disklavier E3 technology to bring these outstanding performances by the iconic jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to music lovers for the very first time on a Bösendorfer in their living room”, said Simon Oss, premium piano marketing manager of Bösendorfer.

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