Home > Events, General > Ian McDougall Pays Tribute to Ross Taggart (1967-2013) as Remembrances Pour in from across the Country

Ian McDougall Pays Tribute to Ross Taggart (1967-2013) as Remembrances Pour in from across the Country

January 9, 2013

20080816021530_dsc_6640_2Trombonist Ian McDougall spoke for hundreds of jazz musicians and thousands of fans on Vancouver Island and across the country this afternoon when he said, “We lost a fantastic man,” referring to the death in Vancouver early this morning of beloved saxophonist and pianist Ross Taggart.

He was speaking on CBC Victoria’s local afternoon radio show All Points West.

Holding back tears, McDougall said Taggart was “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life,” noting that he was a kind and good man with a wonderful sense of humour he kept even as he was dying of cancer.

“He was one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life.”

McDougall first met Taggart in 1986 when Taggart, about to graduate from Claremont High School in Victoria, came to his house to audition for a big band McDougall was launching at UBC in Vancouver. He recalled Taggart pulling out his tenor sax and blowing a beautiful Coleman Hawkins solo that showed not only his incredible playing skill at a young age but also his deep respect for jazz tradition. “I’ve never forgotten that moment,” said McDougall.

Uncertain if he would get a seat in the band, Taggart then told McDougall he could also play piano just in case he wasn’t good enough on saxophone. McDougall, in fact, was so blown away by his sax playing that he’d already decided to give him a seat. “He was so humble,” said McDougall, adding that he kept that quality throughout his life.

“We lost a fantastic man.”

Taggart went on to play in some of the most influential bands on the west coast, including the Hugh Fraser Quintet, VEJI, and the Ian McDougall Sextet. He studied in New York and Toronto and shared the stage with talents like Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bud Shank, Phil Woods, Tommy Banks, Rob McConnell, Don Thompson, and Fraser MacPherson.

He also worked with the Arts Club Theatre in productions of “Ain’t Misbehavin”, and “Five Guys Named Moe”, Colin James, the Powder Blues, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra, David Foster and Raffi. He was featured on numerous recordings by other artists as well as at least four of his own as a leader. He was widely regarded as one of the best players in Canada and performed internationally many times.

“A musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with.”

The Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Hum reported on his jazz blog today that Taggart got into jazz after hearing an Oscar Peterson recording when he was only 14. He then sold all his rock albums and bought jazz records.

Hum also reported on the many remembrances coming from across the land, including one from Mike Herriott in Toronto that recalled Taggart as  “a musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with, and one of the most thoughtful people I’ve known.”

CBC music reported saxophone great Campbell Ryga saying he always recognized Taggart’s sound for its “grace, elegance and heart,” as well as his thorough command of “the history of the tenor saxophone.”

CBC’s Hot Air plans a tribute this Saturday at 5:05 (PST) on CBC Radio One and a memorial is planned for later this month in Victoria, Taggart’s hometown. Stay tuned for more info.

  1. January 13, 2013 at 5:34 am

    The first time I met Ross was when he observed me at one of my first public jams in Victoria. Later after moving to Vancouver I got a piano lesson from him. His vibe was always positive and encouraging and I know he’ll be missed by us all.

  2. Conn Stewart
    January 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I was so lucky to get to meet Mr. Taggart and hear him play live before he passed. I wanted to honour him in some way when I heard he was ill, so it meant so much to be able to travel over and play with my duo partner Kyle Gorenko at the guest jam at his benefit. My dad said it would be appropriate to post the letter I sent him in hospital. It pretty much says how I feel.

    Nov. 4, 2012

    Dear Mr.Taggart,

    I am a young musician who, like yourself, fell in love with jazz, the tenor saxophone, and the piano. I first heard of you from my saxophone teacher, Steve Jones, who greatly admires you and has so many good things to say about you. I discovered your music when Ken Lister gave me your Presenting the Ross Taggart Trio CD during a lesson this past May. I listened to it and loved your playing, and wanted to meet you and hear you play live.

    In August, my dad took me to Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria to hear the Miles Black Count Basie Octet. There I had the fantastic privilege of hearing you play on the tenor sax. The other players were great, but you were right inside the whole Count Basie feel, swinging away. It was like hearing the original music when you played and soloed. I got to talk with you afterwards, and you invited me to take a lesson with you in Vancouver this fall.

    I was fortunate to make the BCMEA Honour Jazz Ensemble as a tenor sax player this year, and when playing with them at the Cellar in October I met and took a lesson from your good friend Cory Weeds. He told me about your influence on him and how he looks up to you, and I saw a great picture of you two together when you were a few years older than me.

    Mr. Taggart, I am just a young person you met once and likely won’t remember, and in the big picture of life right now I know that what I say can’t matter much. But I just wanted to thank you for your kindness in taking the time to talk with me after your long concert at Hermann’s. I now know you probably weren’t feeling your best (though you never let it show, and one couldn’t tell from your great playing.)

    I also wanted to say thank you for loving jazz and caring about the music, for playing your horn and piano so excellently and with such passion and elegance, for all the wonderful teaching I have heard from so many kids and band teachers that you shared with them, and for creating memorable music for all of us.

    Everyone I talk to speaks of you as a wonderful person. Thank you for helping make the world a better place with your music and your life. I am not religious, but I am sending every hope into the universe that I get to take that lesson with you in Vancouver someday soon.

    Your fellow jazzer,

    Connor Stewart, 15
    Nanaimo, B.C.

  3. A.
    January 9, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Very sad to hear this news today. I didn’t know Ross well, but I would have liked to. We only met a few times… What a friendly guy! This is a massive loss to the world of jazz. Bye Ross… Thanks for making the world a better place.

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