Black Canadian jazz pianist, one of the most popular and accomplished jazz musicians of the second half of the twentieth century.
A successful instrumentalist in Canadian bands in the mid-1940s, Peterson went to the USA in 1949 for a Norman Granz concert. As a result, he toured with Granz's Jazz-at-the-Philharmonic concerts throughout the 1950s, moving onto the international circuit in the 1960s, when he often appeared with Ella Fitzgerald. During this period he usually led a trio with a bass and guitar, replacing the guitar with drums in 1959. Peterson is also a composer and a singer: he won praise for his Canadian Suite in 1965 and recorded the vocal With Respect to Nat in the same year. In the early 1970s he often played the piano solo, subsequently dividing a concert time between a solo performance and trio; a popular solo recording is My Favourite Instrument (1973). He hosted his own television series, Oscar Peterson Presents and Oscar Peterson's Piano Party in the 1970s and Oscar Peterson and Friends in 1980; he also published books of jazz exercises and piano solos.
Although he was not an innovator, Peterson was a serious and articulate man with complete technical command of the instrument, who acknowledged his debt to Nat ‘King’ Cole (1919–65), Earl Hines, and especially Art Tatum.