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Jazz great Ocar Peterson dies at 82

December 23, 2007 9:00:00 PM PST
Oscar Peterson, whose early talent and speedy fingers made him one of the world's best known jazz pianists, died at age 82. His death was confirmed by Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, the Toronto suburb where Peterson lived. McCallion told The Associated Press that he died of kidney failure. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said he died Sunday.

"He's been going downhill in the last few months, slowing up," McCallion said, calling Peterson a "very close friend."

During an illustrious career spanning seven decades, Peterson played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also remembered for touring in a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the 1950s.

Peterson's impressive collection of awards include all of Canada's highest honors, such as the Order of Canada, as well as a Lifetime Grammy (1997) and a spot in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

His growing stature was reflected in the admiration of his peers. Duke Ellington referred to him as "Maharajah of the keyboard," while Count Basie once said "Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard."

"The world has lost an important jazz player," said McCallion. "It isn't just a loss for Canada, he was world famous."


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