One of the most brilliant pianists in the history of jazz, Peterson's prodigious technique and unparalleled swing made him a master in every style of jazz piano from boogie and stride to bebop and beyond. He grew up in Montreal, Canada, where he led his first trio from 1948. In 1949, he appeared at Jazz At The Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, New York, in duo with bassist Ray Brown - the start of a long association with Brown, and also with producer Norman Granz.
In the early 1950s, Peterson worked in duo with Brown, subsequently forming a trio which added Barney Kessell and then Herb Ellis on guitar. This group appeared regularly at JATP concerts and also as the rhythm section (plus either Buddy Rich or Louie Bellson on drums) for countless of Granz's Verve recordings. In 1958, Peterson changed the trio to become piano, bass and drums - for a long time this included Brown and Ed Thigpen on drums, regarded by many as Peterson's classic trio.
He continued to lead a trio throught the 1960s and 1970s, and members included bassist Sam Jones and Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen; guitarist Joe Pass, and drummers Louis Hayes, Bobby Durham and Martin Drew. Peterson became an ambassador for jazz: recording, broadcasting, teaching and touring relentlessly. In the early 1970s, he toured entirely solo, and made numerous discs of his unaccompanied playing, as well as making a series of acclaimed duo records, with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry.
He continued to work with his trio and as a freelance recoirding artist through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, when he suffered a stroke in 1993. Undaunted, he returned to playing, and international touring; his quartet included Drew and Pedersen, plus Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius. He also enjoyed regular reunions of his former groups, with Brown and Ellis among others. He made great efforts to pass on his skills to new generations, and taught at York University in Canada (of which he became chancellor in 1991). His official protege is the young American pianist Benny Green.