Time constraints mean that I can’t write about all the jazz gigs happening on the Island. I’ll continue to cover as many as I can that seem noteworthy. However, musicians and promoters can now post their own jazz events on the site by clicking on “Calendars and Upcoming Gigs” (above) where jazz fans can view them. Easy peasey.
In my previous story on the Ken Lister CHLY (Nanaimo) interview, I reported that Kerilee McDowall founded the CFUV (Victoria) show Rhythm-a-ning.
According to Arnold van Klaveren, the show’s host, that information is incorrect. Van Klaveren says he originated his show on CFUV in Victoria in April 1989 and at the time there was no other show of that name being broadcast by CFUV.
I’ve corrected the Lister story and apologize for any confusion.
For those who didn’t see it, here’s the obituary for Ross Taggart that appeared in the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper today:
January 16, 2013
TAGGART, Ross Thomas Died surrounded by family and close friends on 9th January 2013 after a brave and gallant struggle with kidney cancer. He was 45. Born in Victoria, BC, Ross showed great interest in music from an early age. At 18, he moved to Vancouver and embarked on a free lance jazz career, eventually becoming a prominent and beloved figure on the North American jazz scene. Ross lived generously and compassionately; he loved with an open heart, always, and appreciated the truly valuable things in life – art, music, drama, good food, the beauty of nature, friends and family. His unique sense of humour meant he carried the gift of laughter wherever he went. Those of us fortunate enough to have known him will miss him more deeply than words can express. His loss will also deeply affect the Vancouver/Vancouver Island jazz community whose steadfast devotion was a comfort to both Ross and his family during these dreadful last three months. In addition, family and friends alike are very grateful to the truly extraordinary Palliative Care Team at Vancouver General Hospital. A service celebrating Ross’s life will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday 19th January at Cordova Bay United Church, 813 Claremont Ave. Joy he gave; joy he has found.
Ian McDougall Pays Tribute to Ross Taggart (1967-2013) as Remembrances Pour in from across the Country
Trombonist 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.
A talented young pianist I admire once complained about all the adulation heaped on Dave Brubeck, noting that on at least one recording he messed up the 5/4 time of Take Five. He was quite outraged that a guy who couldn’t keep time – or more accurately was always messing around with it – should be considered one of the great jazz pianists.
What I wanted to say but didn’t is that you had to be there. You had to be there in the 60s (and even earlier in the 50s) when Brubeck’s music took North America by storm. You had to be there when Paul Desmond’s Take Five was played on every radio station. You had to be there when, like so many others, you first heard those funky time signatures and sweet melodies and fell in love with jazz.
Brubeck and Stan Getz, turned me on to jazz when I was only 14 or 15 years old. By the time I was 17 or 18 I was listening to guys like John Handy (backed by Don Thompson and Terry Clarke) and other deeper more outside stuff but it was Brubeck who first hooked me and Getz whose Brazilian experiments sunk the hook in further.
I remember buying my first jazz album at a shop on Robson St. in Vancouver. It was Brubeck’s greatest hits album that included wonderful tunes like It’s A Raggy Waltz and Blue Rondo a la Turk from Time Out and Time Further Out. I played that thing over and over again as I did a Getz/Gilberto album I acquired a little later.
Without those guys I might never have found this great music. So hats off to Dave Brubeck. He deserves our adulation and respect.
He’s the quiet guitarist that the very best jazz guitarists in the world from Jim Hall to Pat Metheny are in awe of to this day. Although he became a fixture on the Toronto scene starting in the 1950s, like so many Toronto jazz greats, he’s actually from the west, born near Winnipeg and raised in Vernon, where he first picked up a guitar at age 8. Sadly he no longer performs, but we can still enjoy his timeless, tasteful, amazing playing through his recordings and the magic of YouTube. Here he is from the early years with another BC great – Don Thompson on bass and Claude Ranger on drums. Oh, and here’s a link to a tribute concert recorded earlier this month by the CBC. Happy birthday, Ed.
I’m re-posting information from Capilano University about a benefit concert held last night that provides an address for donations. I know the entire Island jazz community will be thinking about him and will come to his support. Please send a donation if you can. Here’s the blurb:
Ross Taggart, one of Canada’s finest jazz pianists and saxophonists, and a dear friend to many in the jazz community is in hospital battling renal cancer. A benefit concert featuring Vancouver’s finest jazz players will take place on Monday, November 26 at the NSCU Centre. The fundraiser is SOLD OUT. Donations can still be made, please send to the Vancouver Musicians Association at #100 - 925 West 8thAvenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E4.
Submitted by: NSCU Centre
It amazes me that so much good jazz can be found in B.C. given the sorry state of arts funding in this province.
BC gives less money per capita to the arts than any other province in Canada.
Yet we have more artists per capita than anywhere else, and Vancouver and Victoria have the highest concentration of all the major urban centers in the country.
You can imagine the effect this imbalance has on our jazz artists, particularly when the limited funds that are available go mostly to the big jazz societies for their once-a-year extravaganzas that are less and less about jazz and more and more about multi-genre music and big name acts.
Our own musicians, relegated to the side stages, see very little of that funding and are generally paid the paltry union scale of about $100 a gig – once a year.
Ian McDougall recently told me that he attempted to get funding from the BC Arts Council to tour his 12tet around the province but was turned down because they don’t fund tours in BC, only in the rest of Canada. The Canada Council has the same policy.
So, a BC jazz band, composed of BC artists, including Juno winners like Phil Dwyer and Campbell Ryga, can’t get money from its own provincial funding body to tour its home province.
Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture?
Contrast this situation with Norway, a country one-third the geographical size of BC with roughly the same population where generous grants go to musicians, venues, and promoters. The result: Norway boasts over 20 active jazz clubs and has a lively national touring scene – year round.
We could have the same in BC with groups like the Ian McDougall 12tet touring to centers like Penticton, Kelowna, Prince George, and Nelson if the money were there. But it’s not.
The funding bodies will argue that they want their limited funds to promote local artists in the rest of Canada or abroad. Indeed travel grants do allow musicians to tour across the country and sometimes internationally but mounting such a tour is difficult and expensive given our geography. That’s why it doesn’t happen very often – mostly during the jazz festival season.
It would be far better to develop a lively provincial scene that would encourage the establishment of more clubs and create a regular and practical year-round touring route for B.C. artists.
Fortunately, here in Victoria, we do have organizations like U-JAM and the Jazz Vespers folks and Up-Island there’s the Georgia Straight Jazz Society in Courtenay and TOSH in Qualicum. They are doing what they can, but they and others could do a lot more with decent funding.
I never had the pleasure of meeting Tony Westlake, although I did hear him play at Hermann’s once or twice. Clearly he was very well loved by the Victoria jazz community.
In his memory I thought I would post a couple of his recordings that are available on You Tube.
I’ve had a query asking whether the CD he recorded in July will be available for purchase. As soon as I have more information, I’ll let you know. In the meantime enjoy his gentle touch on the piano with these two classic songs:
In August I had the privilege of dropping in on two recording sessions with jazz vocalist Joe Coughlin at Electric City Sound here in Victoria. The two-time National Jazz Award winner invited west coast piano sensation Miles Black and Toronto’s Mark Eisenman to join him in the studio for something he’s never done before – record an album of standards with piano and voice only.
Black played for the first two days and then Eisenman, who was on the coast performing with saxophonist Campbell Ryga at MusicFest Vancouver, did the next two. All told they recorded 31 tracks, drawing heavily for material from the legendary duo albums Tony Bennett and Bill Evans recorded in the 1970s.
The results were sensational. Coughlin has never sounded better, with his warm, rich baritone beautifully reproduced by a vintage AKG tube mic on loan from Joby Baker. And with eight mics on the piano, every nuance of the gorgeous Steinway grand provided by Tom Lee Music came through.
Coughlin is busy selecting and mixing the material. Stay tuned for news of an album release.