It’s the group sound that’s important, even when you’re playing a solo. You not only have to know your own instrument, you must know the others and how to back them up at all times. That’s jazz.
— Oscar Peterson
Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson walked the talk. His list of collaborators is long and illustrious: Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, not to mention his longtime trio-mates Ray Brown and Herb Ellis (who was later succeeded by Ed Thigpin).
Peterson’s career as a piano soloist began in 1940, when at the age of 14, he won the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s national music competition. In 1949 Peterson met impresario Norman Granz, the founder of Verve Records. His connection with Granz led to a series of recordings with two other musicians and the Oscar Peterson Trio was born. For the majority of his career, the Trio was the mainstay of his artistic life.
Over the course of his career, Peterson developed a reputation as a technically brilliant and melodically inventive jazz artist. One way he developed both his expertise and his reputation was by surrounding himself with the best musicians. Rather than looking for a drummer and bass player who would “accompany” him, Peterson looked for partners; musicians who would challenge and inspire each other to their best levels.
Oscar Peterson’s musical legacy is built on the collaborations that he had with musicians around the world. His ability to understand, integrate, and then amplify the artistry of others is legendary.
In jazz and in life, amplify the group even when you’re playing a solo.