“So what is the future of jazz? And why do I go on playing? The simple answer to the second question is that I still love it, and am as devoted to the piano as ever. When I began studying classical music, I did it as whole-heartedly as I knew how; when I made the switch to jazz my commitment was even greater, because I realized I had found a medium that offered me full creative freedom. My study-time increased rather than otherwise, for I was determined to be as dedicated and comprehensive in my endevours as any classical virtuoso.
“The less simple answer also takes in the first question. The state of jazz today may be bleak, but jazz itself will remain a noble and unique art, and as long as my performing and compositional skills are up to it, I shall want to celebrate and commemorate that art in my work. For despite everything…I believe jazz will survive, even rise again to a new life. In spite of racism, in spite of the desire of music magnates to establish tyrannical control and dismantle all that jazz means and has achieved , it retains a devoted following throughout the world, and its vast legacy of recordings will never be forgotten.
“Jazz has suffered betrayal, calculated assimilation, and attempted annihilation, and its current staus may not seem very healthy. But I do not believe you can wholly demolish a creative culture. You may subdue it, you may even fragment it; but if time has proved it valid and durable, it will continue to rise again and again.” – Oscar Peterson, ‘A Jazz Odyssey’ (his autobiography; pub: Continuum, 2002).
Here’s the maestro with his two favourite bass players, Ray Brown and Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977. The song is “People”:
For a proper obituary, read Steve Voce’s appreciation in the Independent, here.