This is somewhat of a mixed bag, uneasily straddling the divide between a fan's gushy enthusiasm and a critic's more distanced perspective. I, in turn, am torn between giving it 3 or 4 stars. Perhaps it is the fan in me that ultimately nudges my decision upwards to the fourth star.
In my youth I spent countless hours at the piano, almost all of it devoted to classical music. Hence, I have less of a feel for jazz piano than I would like. But for a long time, Oscar Peterson has been one of my favorite jazz pianists (along with Bill Evans, until about a decade ago when I first was introduced to Art Tatum, who may even edge out OP). I also was familiar with the NPR duo/interview disc Marian McPartland did with Peterson, and I was impressed with his obvious intellect, thoughtfulness, and dignity.
With all that as background, I opened this book with keen anticipation. I learned that Oscar Peterson, even putting aside his mammoth musical ability, is a remarkable and admirable person. (So, too, were his father and sister, both of whom had a lot to do with his character and musical training, and Ray Brown, his bassist and alter-ego in perhaps the finest trio(s) in jazz history.) And I learned that indeed Oscar Peterson is a person of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and dignity. I also learned much about his life, in a straightforward, easy-to-digest fashion, albeit without at times sufficient critical distance.
The book is written by Gene Lees, who is both a long-time fan and friend of Oscar Peterson (and, apparently, fellow Canadian) and a long-time jazz critic. To my mind, the best chapters of the book were two in which Lees-as-critic were more to the fore than Lees-as-fan: Chapter 18 deals with jazz criticism, the uneasy position of the piano within jazz, and Oscar Peterson as a piano virtuoso in the tradition of Chopin and Liszt; Chapter 21 contains a provocative discussion of the present problems with jazz and reasons for its decline in popularity. I can unreservedly recommend those two chapters to anyone interested in jazz or piano, but the rest of the book, I believe, would be appreciated primarily by those already taken with Oscar Peterson.
I can't resist ending with one quote from Oscar Peterson. As a youth in Montreal, he had received considerable teaching and training as a classical pianist. When asked late in life whether he would have continued in the classical tradition had it not been for the then almost insuperable barriers to entry to the concert stage for black musicians, Peterson said: "No. I'd still have taken the direction I did. Because of the creativity of jazz."