THE RUNDOWN

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Posted January 3, 2008 in News

MONDAY, DECEMBER 24

. . . Ramps open for SANTA—early motorists’ present

Cars were spotted on the flyover connector ramps for the 60/91/215 Interchange in downtown Riverside. Caltrans officials later confirmed the ramps, which had been scheduled to open on Thursday and Friday, were ready early and starting taking traffic at 8am. Signs have been posted to alert motorists that the ramps are available.

The old connector loops will remain open to motorists for a grace period to allow drivers to adjust to the new route. The old routes could remain open until later January, Caltrans stated in a release.

The southeast connector will allow drivers on southbound 215 to get onto Highway 60 heading east. The northwest connector is nearly a mile long and links northbound Highway 60 and I-215 to westbound Highway 91.

Both connectors rise about 100 feet off the ground at their highest point and have been under construction since 2004. They are noticeable from several points in Riverside.

Cost estimates for the project have risen. Early total estimates provided by Caltrans in published reports were as low as $250 million and $294 million. At the start of construction, Caltrans said the projected cost of construction and land acquisition was $317 million.

Caltrans now says it will cost at least $368 million and that amount does not include some of the initial planned work.

 

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25

CHRISTMAS . . . WAKE UP WITHOUT OSCAR PETERSON . . .

Jazz great Oscar Peterson dead at 82.

Oscar Peterson, whose early talent and speedy fingers made him one of the world’s best-known jazz pianists, died at age 82.

His death was confirmed by Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, the Toronto suburb where Peterson lived. McCallion told The Associated Press that he died of kidney failure but that she did not know when. The hospital and police refused to comment.

“He’s been going downhill in the last few months, slowing up,” McCallion said, calling Peterson a “very close friend.”

During an illustrious career spanning seven decades, Peterson played with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also remembered for touring in a trio with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar in the 1950s.

Peterson’s impressive collection of awards include all of Canada’s highest honors, such as the Order of Canada, as well as a Lifetime Grammy (1997) and a spot in the International Jazz Hall of Fame.

His growing stature was reflected in the admiration of his peers. Duke Ellington referred to him as “Maharajah of the keyboard,” while Count Basie once said, “Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I’ve ever heard.”

“The world has lost an important jazz player,” said McCallion. “It isn’t just a loss for Canada, he was world famous.”

Born on August 15, 1925, in a poor neighborhood southwest of Montreal, Peterson obtained a passion for music from his father. Daniel Peterson, a railway porter and self-taught musician, bestowed his love of music to his five children, offering them a means to escape from poverty.

Oscar Peterson learned to play trumpet and piano at a young age, but after a bout with tuberculosis had to concentrate on the latter.

He became a teen sensation in his native Canada, playing in dance bands and recording in the late ’30s and early ’40s. But he got his real break as a surprise guest at Carnegie Hall in 1949, after which he began touring the United States and Europe. He quickly made a name for himself as a jazz virtuoso, often compared to piano great Art Tatum, his childhood idol, for his speed and technical skill.

He was also influenced by Nat King Cole, whose Nat King Cole Trio album he considered “a complete musical thesaurus for any aspiring Jazz pianist.”

Peterson never stopped calling Canada home despite his growing international reputation. But at times he felt slighted here, where he was occasionally mistaken for a football player, standing at six-foot-three and weighing more than 250 pounds.

In 2005 he became the first living person other than a reigning monarch to obtain a commemorative stamp in Canada, where he is jazz royalty, with streets, squares, concert halls and schools named after him.


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