New Heritage Minute Honours Montreal Jazz Superstar

Historica Canada has released a new Heritage Minute celebrating the legacy of renowned jazz musician Oscar Peterson.

Peterson grew up in the Black working-class community of Little Burgundy (St. Henri) in Montreal. His father, a railway porter, saw music as a ticket out of poverty for his children and insisted they learn piano and a brass instrument.

Peterson emerged as a celebrity in Montreal’s music scene in the early 1940s. Though he found international success, Peterson made Canada his home base. His 1964 Canadiana Suite was one of his most acclaimed albums. The popularity of his many albums and his numerous awards and honours established Peterson as the first jazz star that Canada could truly call its own. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time

The Oscar Peterson Heritage Minute focuses on the circumstances in which Peterson grew up and follows his rise to fame, from his early years as a piano prodigy and adolescence in Johnny Holmes’ band, to his later success headlining Montreal’s Alberta Lounge with his own trio.

Historica Canada has also released a companion video, Oscar Peterson and Montreal’s Little Burgundy, to support the launch of the Oscar Peterson Heritage Minute. Narrated by Peterson’s daughter, Céline Peterson, this educational video expands on the history of Little Burgundy and explores the rise of jazz within the community.

“Oscar Peterson’s music is timeless, and so is his story,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. “From a childhood of poverty and battles against racial discrimination, he rose to become one of our most celebrated Canadians, and someone whose musical skills remain revered around the world.

This Heritage Minute was filmed in September 2019. The English end narration is provided by Oliver Jones, and the French end narration is provided by renowned pianist and musician Gregory Charles. Original score composed by jazz pianist Robi Botos, Oscar Peterson’s protegee.

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