Firstly, some jazz critics believed that Peterson’s playing was too technical and lacked emotional depth. They argued that his focus on technical proficiency and virtuosity came at the expense of expressing the emotional essence of the music. According to these critics, Peterson’s playing lacked the spontaneity and improvisation that are essential elements of jazz.
Secondly, some jazz purists criticised Peterson for his mainstream popularity and his crossover appeal. They believed that his music had been diluted and commercialized to appeal to a wider, non-jazz audience. They argued that Peterson’s music had lost its authenticity and integrity in the process.
Thirdly, some jazz critics accused Peterson of being too derivative and not original enough. They argued that he relied too heavily on the influence of earlier jazz pianists, such as Art Tatum, and failed to develop his own distinctive style.
In response to these criticisms, Peterson’s supporters argued that his technical mastery was a crucial element of his musical style, and that his virtuosity did not preclude emotional expression. They also defended Peterson’s popularity, arguing that he had helped to introduce jazz to a wider audience and that his crossover appeal was a testament to the universality of his music. Finally, they pointed out that Peterson had indeed developed his own distinctive style, which was characterized by his lightning-fast runs, powerful chords, and impeccable timing.
In conclusion, Oscar Peterson was a highly regarded jazz pianist who nevertheless faced criticism in some jazz circles. His technical proficiency, mainstream popularity, and derivative style were among the reasons cited for this criticism. However, his supporters argued that his virtuosity did not preclude emotional expression, that his popularity had helped to bring jazz to a wider audience, and that he had indeed developed his own distinctive style. Ultimately, the debate over Peterson’s place in the jazz canon reflects the ongoing tension between tradition and innovation in this dynamic and constantly evolving genre.