“Oscar, With Love”, showcases never before released compositions by Peterson, all were performed and recorded in Oscar’s home studio on his treasured Bösendorfer Imperial piano.
For a long time Kelly Peterson, widow of piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson, had been trying to think of ways to honor his legacy and share his compositions with the world. After all, Oscar Peterson ranked alongside Art Tatum as one of the super heroes when it comes to jazz piano.
So when a piano technician came to the Peterson home in Toronto to tune her husband’s Bösendorfer Imperial grand — with its 97 keys, an idea was born.
The technician “said the piano is in remarkably good shape, but it needs to be played,” recalls Kelly Peterson.
“So that’s when I got the idea: We would do a recording of Oscar’s music on Oscar’s piano. In my naivete, I thought this would be the easiest recording in the world to make: solo piano and in my home. I don’t even have to go to a studio.”
Few years later, Kelly is all set to release “Oscar, With Love,” a three-CD set for which several of the world’s greatest jazz pianists have recorded her husband’s music on his Bösendorfer, in his home studio. The musicians include veterans such as Ramsey Lewis, Michel Legrand, Chick Corea, Monty Alexander and Kenny Barron as well as exceptional younger artists such as Gerald Clayton, Benny Green and Justin Kauflin.
Watch: Oscar, With Love/At Home With Oscar (Behind The Scenes)
One can only imagine how intimidating it must have been for any pianist, even those as accomplished as the ones Kelly Peterson convened, to sit at the great man’s piano, surrounded by portraits of Duke Ellington, Tatum and Peterson himself.
“He’s one of my main influences. So we went downstairs, and she says: ‘Well, here’s his piano.’ And it was almost like: ‘Do I touch it? Or should I touch it? So I kind of had to walk around and digest this at first. Finally, I sat down at the piano, and I kind of just sat there for a few minutes before I touched it,” recalls Lewis, the Chicago pianist who, like many other musicians, long revered Peterson.
Its not easy to get all these artists — most of whom tour the world relentlessly — to the Petersons’ home during select time slots. For Kelly, the process became a maze of scheduling, recording and producing.
The music album includes 36 tracks, most composed by Oscar Peterson, several never recorded before and a few penned in homage to him by Corea, Alexander, Makoto Ozone, Oliver Jones and others.