TORONTO — Classic albums by the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and punk legends D.O.A. have been awarded the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize, designed to honor albums before the creation of the annual Polaris Music Prize, a juried process which declares the best Canadian album of the year no matter the genre, sales or affiliation.
Oscar Peterson Trio’s 1963 album Night Train was chosen by a 10-member jury comprised of music media and historians, while D.O.A.’s 1981 release Hardcore ’81 was picked from 11 other nominated albums by a public vote, held Sept. 17 to Oct. 18.
This is the first year only two albums have been chosen. Past years selected eight — four by public vote and four by jury — two from each of the four time periods: 1960-1975; 1976-1985; 1986-1995; and 1996-2005.
Polaris has now simplified the process, getting rid of the categories, and selecting two albums from before 2006, the year the Polaris Music Prize launched. Among the many past Heritage winners are albums by Neil Young, Rush, Peaches, Bruce Cockburn, Broken Social Scene, Alanis Morissette, Arcade Fire, Glenn Gould, Feist, Harmonium, Joni Mitchell, Kid Koala, and Leonard Cohen.
Of this year’s picks, Gary Slaight, president and CEO of Slaight Communications and the title sponsor, congratulated the two winners. “You’ve created important memorable recordings that have had a lasting impact on the musical landscape,” he said in a statement. “I have tremendous appreciation for the work that has gone into creating these timeless albums.”
Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s widow and artistic producer for the Oscar Peterson International Jazz Festival, said in a statement she was elated Night Train won. “How deeply honoured I am on Oscar’s behalf, knowing how humbled he would be to realize this recording remains significant more than 65 years after its release. It’s especially gratifying because this record contains the absolute original version of what is perhaps his most significant composition. During the recording session, Norman Granz challenged Oscar to compose a piece on the spot. The result was ‘Hymn To Freedom.’ My gratitude for this honour knows no bounds. Thank you to all involved with the Polaris Heritage Prize.”
D.O.A. frontman Joey ‘Shithead’ Keithley, a city councillor since 2018 as a member of the Green Party who wrapped up the Godfathers of Hardcore 40th Anniversary Tour with the band in August, said, “It’s pretty cool for D.O.A. and our fans to have Hardcore ’81 recognized by Polaris. When it was released, we never realized that this album would give birth to the hardcore music genre and make an impact around the world. So this is an amazing moment for us.”
Ian MacKay, Re:Sound president, which has sponsored the Polaris Heritage Prize for the past three years, said, “By spanning numerous decades and musical genres and incorporating both the jury and the public’s selections, we see winners who reflect Canada’s diverse and dynamic musical history. The shortlist and winners reinforce why we do the work we do to help build a thriving and sustainable music industry in Canada.”