One of next year’s Black History stamps has already been announced, a stamp honouring 78-year-old jazz great Oliver Jones. The Montreal-born musician grew up just a few doors down from Oscar Peterson, and at one time studied piano under Daisy Peterson Sweeney, the performer’s sister. Jones was a child prodigy who started playing songs by memory at the age of three, and first performed at the age of five at Union United Church in Montreal. Classically trained, he also studied music theory and composition. By the age of nine he was performing a solo act in Montreal clubs and part of a touring show called The Bandwagon.
He continued to perform as an adult, and in 1964 was selected as music director for Jamaican calypso singer Kenny Hamilton. He toured with the band until 1980. In 1980 Jones returned to Montreal and started playing jazz with bassist Charlie Biddle. The pair quickly became established, recording an album together in 1982 before signing with jazz label Justin Time and releasing Live at Biddle’s in 1983. Jones recorded his first solo album in 1984. Over the next few years, he toured Canada and later the world. Jones has performed at major jazz festivals in The Hague, Monterey, California, and New York.
In 2000 he announced his retirement, but continues to perform intermittently. Jones taught at Laurentian University and McGill University from 1987 to 1995. He received Felix awards in 1989, 1994, 2007 and 2008 and Juno awards in 1986, 1990, 2006 and 2009. His album Pleased to Meet You was nominated for a 2010 Juno Award. In 2006, Just You, Just Me won recording of the year, and Jones keyboardist of the year at the National Jazz Awards. Jones was awarded the Prix Oscar-Peterson by the Montreal International Jazz Festival in 1990 and the Martin Luther King Jr. award in 1992. In 1993 he was named Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Québec and in 1994 was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada. He received a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award in 2005.