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Oct. 19, 2021 | Tuesday
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Jazz festival in tribute to Oscar Peterson to return for its second year on Feb. 15
Christine and Ingrid Jensen headlining the Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival Friday Feb. 15. (Submitted)

The second annual Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival returns Feb. 15.

Honouring the past and shining a light on the future of younger performers, the festival stays true to the legacy Oscar Peterson established.

Kelly Peterson, artistic director, said the festival is named for her husband, famous jazz pianist who died in 2007. The idea isn’t to pay tribute to him, she said, it’s to honour the music he loved.

“It’s representing the fact that we’re paying tribute to the music that he dedicated his life to. The whole legacy that comes up from the very beginning, from the roots of jazz and into the future of younger artists performing.”

Peterson said she is excited and proud to be able to put on the festival. It began when she was discussing the fact that there are other festivals named for great musicians in the United States with Renee Rosnes, artistic director of the festival.

“We liked that idea and pursued it a bit more.”

Kicking off on Friday Feb. 15 at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra featuring Ingrid Jensen will perform a piece composed in Peterson’s memory.

“She has created a special piece for us, in tribute to Oscar, called Something in his Smile. The title got me very excited when she told me what she was going to call it, because if you ever watch videos of Oscar performing, you just see this magical smile on his face. It was so much about who he was.”

The song will premier on Friday night, along with performances from highly respected international jazz artists and acclaimed musicians from Toronto.

Peterson said each performance over the three nights will be in an intimate setting, allowing audiences the opportunity to experience the music up close.

A free event will be held Saturday Feb. 16 afternoon at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre. In the Cairns Recital Halls, Bill Charlap, Grammy award winning pianist, will present a lecture and performance based on George Gershwin’s music.

Peterson said he has incredible gifts and talent. The performance, called The Blues and the American Soul, is one she said she’s very excited about.

“Apart from being one of the greatest Jazz pianists alive, he is also an enchanting story-teller. He knows so much about the great-American songbook, and Gershwin. He’s extremely well-versed in Gershwin. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

The event is free but will need to be registered in advance as there is limited seating.

Saturday night’s event, Singin’ and Swinging’: A Jazz Summit, will feature seven modern jazz masters performing together. Peterson said these musicians have not played together and will not again; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them together.

“One of the things that makes our Jazz festival unique is we put together groupings of musicians who don’t usually play together. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear these great artists playing on the same stage. It’ll be intimate and incredible.”

At the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre in the Partridge Hall, the artists will come together.

“They don’t normally play together. They will, and it’ll be beautifully performed.”

Music with no Borders will take place the afternoon of Sunday Feb. 17 at Stratus Vineyards. Peterson it is the most intimate of the performances during the festival.

“It’s a very intimate setting and pretty cool also, to be in the room surrounded by huge vats of wine and hearing great jazz.”

To close out the festival, a gala dinner will be held at Stratus Vineyards on Sunday evening for the Canadian Jazz Master Awards. Honouring Canadian jazz artists, Phil Nimmons will be presented with a lifetime achievement award, along with the family of influential trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler.

“We sold out last year, we’re hoping to sell out this year.”

Tickets can be purchased online through