How To Play Like Oscar Peterson
In this lesson we will take a look at one of the greatest pianists and virtuosos of all time, Oscar Peterson.
Born on August 15th, 1925 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, his career extended over 60 years. He recorded hundreds of albums as a leader and as a sideman. He was influenced by Teddy Wilson, Nat King Cole, James P. Johnson and Art Tatum among others.
After his long time manager discovered him in Montreal and introduced him to New York City in 1949 at the Jazz at the Philharmonic Concert at Carnegie Hall, he worked with all the legends of jazz including Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins and Stan Getz.
As a leader, after working in duo setting with Ray Brown, he formed a trio with Brown on bass and Barney Kessel on guitar, who was later replaced by Herb Ellis. This drumless trio worked from 1953 until 1958 and was, according to Peterson himself, the most productive and stimulating group he had. After Ellis left the group Peterson replaced him with drummer Ed Thigpen. This trio is my personal favorite, and it stayed together until 1965, recording several albums including two of my top 10 trio albums of all time, Night Train and We Get Requests.
After that he performed and recorded extensively in different settings, also returning to the drumless trio in the 1970’s with Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass and Joe Pass on Guitar.
For this course I have chosen a transcription of the first two choruses of C Jam Blues, from the album Night Train. It is a 12 bar blues, but in the first two choruses of Oscar’s solo they play a 4 bar solo break, filled by Peterson’s right hand lines. This solo is a great example of the use of basic diatonic melodies over changes and how to combine that with bebop and blues scale material. In addition, this is a great example of Oscar Peterson’s distinctive grooving 8th notes.