© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oscar Peterson, The Wonderful Wizard Of The Piano!

Oscar Peterson (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007)";

When WRTI Jazz Host Bob Perkins talks about one of his all-time favorite pianists, what does he call him?  The Wonderful Wizard of OZcar!  One of the great jazz pianists of all time, master of the keyboard Oscar Peterson, said he was intimidated by jazz pianist Art Tatum and admired Nat King Cole. But "O.P.," as his friends called him, was a magician who followed his own muse.

Too many jazz pianists limit themselves to a personal style, a trademark, so to speak. They confine themselves to one type of playing. I believe in using the entire piano as a single instrument capable of expressing every possible musical idea. I have no one style. I play as I feel. - Oscar Peterson

Radio script:

[Music: “Wave” from Oscar Peterson—The Will to Swing]

Meridee Duddleston: He was “the Maharaja of the keyboard,” according to Duke Ellington. To WRTI Jazz host Bob Perkins, the six-foot plus pianist Oscar Peterson was a giant of a man, physically and musically.  

Bob Perkins: They say his hand span from the thumb to the little finger – he could cover a lot of notes. (Laughs.) And he used those hands. He covered a lot of notes too. (Laughs) Too many for some people!

MD: Some critics complained the exacting pianist who practiced Bach’s The Art of Fugue and The Well-tempered Clavier as a child brought too much embellishment to his jazz. They wanted more space inside the music. But isn’t that what a virtuoso gets to do?    

BP: He was his own pianist. He paid no attention to the critics.  

A statue of pianist Oscar Peterson sits outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada.

MD: Internationally famous and successful until his death in 2007, the late Oscar Peterson is a hero in Canada. A life-size statue of the pianist, next to his instrument, sits outside Canada's National Arts Centre in the country’s capital. A monument to a meteor of melody, shooting south and across the oceans.  

BP:  And he could stop on a dime and go the other way. He was just a magnificent pianist and all of this coming from the head to the hands.  He thought it and he played it. Jazz musicians especially have told me, because they improvise: ‘I’m playing my life. What I saw. What I liked. Whom I loved. Things I didn’t like.’ It’s like the spaghetti sauce. It’s in there.  


Also known as "BP with the GM," (translation: "Bob Perkins with the Good Music"), Mr. Perkins has been in the broadcasting industry for more than five decades as an on-air host, and is now commonly referred to as a Philadelphia jazz radio legend.