Should Place des Festivals be renamed after Oscar Peterson? Montreal's official opposition says yes

Oscar Peterson performs on the Stravinski hall stage during the 39th Montreux Jazz Festival, on July 16, 2005. (Keystone / Martial Trezzini / AP)

Ensemble Montréal is proposing changing the name of Place des Festivals after Oscar Peterson, the world-renowned jazz pianist from Montreal.

Oscar Peterson, also known as “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie,” was born in 1925 in the city's St Henri borough. He spent his career of 60 years recording with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who referred to Peterson as “the man with four hands.” He died in 2007, not before being recognized internationally as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time.

On Wednesday, Ensemble Montréal announced they would table a motion to rename the space surrounding the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) at the October municipal council meeting.

"It's the least we can do to honour such a jazz legend,” said Lionel Perez, leader of the official opposition in a news release, “in thanks for all the prestige he bestowed upon our great city.”

The Place des Festivals is a mainstay for the Montreal International Jazz Festival, in which Peterson performed several times. He was immortalized in the festival with the creation of the Oscar-Peterson Award, recognizing “a performer’s musicianship and exceptional contribution to the development of Canadian jazz.”

The motion is coming as a result of a previous attempt to rename a part of Montreal after Peterson. In June, Naveed Hussain started a petition to rename Lionel-Groulx station after the pianist and garnered over 26,000 signatures.

Hussein said the city and STM were resistant to changing the name but had a warmer reception from the official opposition.

“I think its time to look at our history. We’ve had people from all genders and all backgrounds who were born in Montreal and contributed,” he said. “It’s time to celebrate them.”

Hussein says he’s been in talks with Ensemble Montréal for months. “Let’s flip the script and rename Place des Festivals, which isn’t really named after anybody,” he said, “and name it after a jazz legend.”

The motion will be debated at the Oct. 19 council meeting.

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