TORONTO (Reuters) - Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones and Nancy Wilson were among a star-studded group of performers who gathered on Saturday for a musical farewell to jazz piano great Oscar Peterson.
“He’s on his second journey. The first is birth and the second is death,” Hancock said as he swiveled in his piano chair to face a giant portrait of Peterson hanging over the stage at a Toronto concert hall. “So enjoy your journey, Oscar. I wish you well.”
Peterson died at his home near Toronto on December 23 of kidney failure. He was 82.
One of jazz’s most recorded musicians, Peterson rose from working-class beginnings in Montreal to become a major influence on generations of musicians. His honors included a 1997 Grammy for lifetime achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award.
Peterson was remembered for his love of life, people and music at the free show, attended by more than 2,500 people who started lining up 12 hours before it began.
“He is leaving a legacy of a very, very, very strong commitment to the jazz world. What he has done is set the path for so many of us. We will have other great jazz artists coming up, but there won’t ever be another Oscar Peterson,” jazz pianist Oliver Jones, Peterson’s friend and protege, told Reuters.
“I owe him everything. He’s irreplaceable,” pianist and jazz composer Hancock said before playing a somber, solo piano piece.
“I am truly thankful to God that I was able to meet someone that I admired all my life,” singer and composer Stevie Wonder said in a taped message played during the ceremony. “The man played the piano so well that you could hear it sing, dance and feel every single note and chord.”
Wilson was brought to tears as she sang a goodbye song to Peterson.
“Nobody who I have ever loved has left,” the Grammy-winning jazz singer said. “They are always here.”