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Oscar Peterson, jazz legend, honoured with plaque

06/18/2015 05:22 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
Bill King remembers 21 Park Road as "an address of mythic invention."

It was there that legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and four musician friends ran the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in 1960.

On Thursday, a Heritage Toronto Legacy Plaque honouring the icon was unveiled at the address near Bloor Street East and Church Street.

King attended the school, which attracted jazz students from all over North America, on a partial scholarship in 1963. The school closed permanently a year later due to the tour demands of the instructors.

"Oscar added a new chapter to the jazz piano book, one which included players like Fats Waller, Earl 'Fatha' Hines, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum," says King, the artistic director of the Beaches International Jazz Festival. "All of them boasted astounding piano technique, big jazz vocabulary and rhythmic swing."

King said he was speechless the first time he met Peterson at the school.

Glorious tones

"I thought of all the things I wanted to say to my hero, but stood there like petrified lumber. I thought about the hours I spent locked to the charming harmonics he'd scripted for the West Side Story album. I wanted to see the manuscripts. More than anything, I just wanted to see where Peterson's fingers lay when they made such glorious tones," King recalled.

Peterson is recognized internationally as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. Over his 60-year career he received eight Grammy Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Juno Awards Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame.

He died at age 82 in 2007.

Peterson would have turned 90 this year and a concert celebrating his birthday is schedule to take place at the Jane Mallett Theatre on Thursday.  It will feature two of his original band members, Ulf Wakenius and Alvin Queen, bassist Christian McBride and pianist Robi Botos,

The Legacy Plaque program, which recognizes Toronto's greats by indicating where they lived or worked, has been in place since 2009.

Peterson joins a list of luminaries that includes Norman Bethune, Jane Jacobs, Marshall McLuhan and Morley Callaghan.

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