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Canadian jazz has come a long way from the day that Oscar Peterson made his auspicious debut at New York's Carnegie Hall. The young Montreal pianist, sharing a bill with Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, "stopped the concert dead cold in its tracks," according to down beat magazine, displaying "a flashy right hand, a load of bop and a good sense of harmonic development." Peterson soared to fame virtually overnight, followed a short time later by Montreal trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. For the longest while, they were the only jazz stars from Canada. And, with a distinct lack of domestic gigs, they worked almost exclusively in the United States.
Joining Peterson and Ferguson in that early pantheon through the 1950s and '60s was Toronto composer-arranger Gil Evans, best known for his seminal work with Miles Davis. Then, out of western Canada, came two gifted but unassuming players: guitarist Ed Vickert from Hochfield, Manitoba, and bassist Don Thompson, from Powell River, B.C. As sidemen, bandleaders and award-winning recording partners, they set an exceptional standard for the next generation, which through the '80s has included such talents as Ottawa guitarist Peter Leitch and Toronto pianist Mark Eisenman.
In the '90s, just as Celine, Shania and Alanis have dominated the pop world, the brightest stars in Canadian jazz have been women. Singers Holly Cole and Liberty Silver, from Halifax and Toronto respectively, have helped to develop the audience with their backgrounds in pop and rhythm & blues. Toronto saxophonist Jane Bunnett, working with some of the top musicians in her field, has become Canada's ambassador for Cuban music. Meanwhile, Regina's Renee Rosnes and Nanaimo, B.C.'s Diana Krall could become the biggest stars yet. Both play piano; Krall also sings. And like the legendary Oscar Peterson himself, they know how to bop and swing.
Released in 1998 by PolyGram Special Products