Published on: May 25, 2018 | Last Updated: May 25, 2018 10:00 AM EDT
Oscar Peterson in 2005: Canada Post issued a stamp to mark his 80th birthday. NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS file
Duke Ellington called him the “Maharaja of the keyboard.” Count Basie called him “the best ivory box (player) I’ve ever heard.” His friends called him “O.P.”
And she simply called him “Dad.”
She is Céline Peterson; her father, Oscar Peterson, was one of the most talented and popular ivory ticklers ever to grace a stage or recording studio.
The Montreal-born Peterson, who died 11 years ago at the age of 82, released dozens of recordings and won eight Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Céline Peterson, 26, has spent much of her working life keeping her dad’s music and legacy going strong.
To that end, Céline is the guiding force behind Celebrating Oscar Peterson, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival concert taking place June 1 at Pollack Hall.
She will host the event, and Oliver Jones — another Montreal jazz giant who happens to be her godfather — will offer insights into the life and career of his fellow pianist.
Celine Peterson, Oscar Peterson’s daughter, sees her role as a jazz ambassador: “Musicians who continue to play that music are so passionate about what they do, but have long learned they’d have to live a life of hustle.” Shira Gilbert PR
The concert will mark the debut of a new jazz trio: longtime Oscar bassist Dave Young, New York pianist/organist Ben Paterson and Montreal drummer Jim Doxas, a veteran of the Oliver Jones combo. And they will certainly be celebrating Oscar by covering many of his finest compositions.
Céline sees her role as a jazz ambassador. Not only committed to preserving her dad’s memory through producing concerts and public appearances, she has also played a pivotal role in Toronto’s Kensington Market Jazz Festival and she represents several up-and-coming musicians.
“I grew up around this music and the beautiful part about growing up in Dad’s house is that it was never something that was forced upon me,” Céline says in a phone interview from her Toronto base. “He allowed me to explore the music on my own, which I did. But I think that it was inevitable growing up around not just my dad, but also Oliver and so many other incredible artists, that it was bound to have some kind of impact.
“It’s now so very important to me that this music is supported. The artists working today really need as much support as possible, no matter if they’ve been in the industry for 50 years and are still going or if they’re just starting out. And it’s an honour for me to do whatever I can to make that happen — whether it’s an artist I’m representing or an event that I’m producing or simply something I can lend my name to.”
Mural in Little Burgundy pays tribute to Oscar Peterson. John Kenney / Montreal Gazette files
Céline, the youngest of Oscar’s seven children, and daughter of his fourth wife, Kelly Green, never sought to follow her father’s path on the piano. This, in spite of the fact her aunt Daisy was a renowned piano teachers, having instructed her brother Oscar as well as Oliver Jones.