In an interview, Oscar Peterson discussed his aesthetics and teaching.
“I’m an admirer of the beautiful long line that starts out and then reaches a point of definition. If you reach a point of definition, it validates all the other aspects of the line.”
“One thing I try to convey to my students when I’m teaching is the relativity of notes. From a melodic standpoint there are wrong notes. But from a creative standpoint there are no wrong notes because every note can be related to a chord. Every note can be made part of your line, depending on how fast you can integrate it into your schematic arrangement.”
“It’s not a matter of technique; it’s time….You have an idea, and it’s confined to a certain period in a piece on an overlay of harmonic carpeting. You have to get from here to there in whatever time you’re allotted with whatever ideas you have.”
Quoted in “Oscar Peterson” by Leonard Lyons, an interview included in The great jazz pianists: Speaking of their lives and music (New York: Thomas Morrow, 1983, pp. 130–43).
Today would have been Peterson’s 90th birthday! Below, the pianist as jazz encyclopedia.