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New documentary of jazz piano icon Oscar Peterson comes to Hulu for Black History Series

Herman Leonard
CTS Images
Pianist Oscar Peterson

The streaming platform Hulu will add the film "Oscar Peterson: Black + White" on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Louis Armstrong called him “The man with four hands,” while Duke Ellington referred to him as the “Maharaja of the Keyboard."

Montreal native Oscar Peterson was a singular talent whose skills brought him recognition throughout the world.

Peterson's flawless technique, his innate sense of swing and the sheer joy he exhibited while playing sometimes intimidated and always inspired musicians and listeners alike.

The Melbar Entertainment Group and director Barry Avrich premiered "Oscar Peterson: Black + White" this past September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

There's so much music in the movie, they call it a "docu-concert." But there's plenty of background material as well, looking into the seven-decade career of the jazz master — from his days as a child prodigy to the development of his signature sound with his trio, and from collaborations with the legends of his era to his brilliant solo performances worldwide.

The film also addresses Peterson's experiences confronting racism and segregation while touring the United States, which culminated with his epic composition, Hymn to Freedom.

The filmmakers had access to a vast archive of rare performances, and they included interviews with Billy Joel, Jon Batiste, Quincy Jones, Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, bassist Dave Young (a member of Peterson’s legendary trio for many years), and Robi Botos, a Peterson protégé.


“It is beyond thrilling to celebrate, reimagine and get lost in the genius of Oscar in an era where icons are often forgotten when we need them the most," says director Barry Avrich. "I’m humbled for the opportunity to pay tribute to Oscar, one of Canada’s greatest gifts to the world.”

"Oscar Peterson: Black + White" lands on Hulu on Tuesday, Feb. 15, as part of its ongoing Black History Series.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.