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.
Monik Nordine writes to say that the Barracuda! Saxophone Quartet “is back at it, and this time we’re playing seasonal music for anyone who would like to come down to the Moka House (Hillside) and enjoy a warm beverage and some saxophone music. There will be plenty of warmth and good cheer and not only that, lots of saxophones.” By donation. A box for food bank donations will be provided. Nordine, along with Tom Ackerman, Chris Watt and Rainier Roth fire up the saxes on Sunday, December 23rd from 11am -12pm. Hillside at Shellbourne.
And Kelby MacNayr is reprising his highly popular early evening New Year’s bash(dinner and music) at Hermann’s on Monday, December 31st from 5 – 8 pm with Ian McDougall, Louise Rose, Roy Styffe, and Ken Lister. $35.00/ $30 (U-Jam, VJS, advance). Seating is limited and the event sold out last year and so reservations are recommended (250) 388-9166.
With celebrated veterans like Phil Dwyer, Campbell Ryga, Ross Taggart, Ron Johnston, Ken Lister, Oliver Gannon, Craig Scott, and Brad Turner – not to mention McDougall himself on trombone – this collection of Juno and Grammy award-winning and nominated artists is one of the most talented jazz groups ever assembled on the west coast of Canada.
They first performed in 2010 at the CBC Jazz Festival – where they received rave reviews – and recorded their first album in Vancouver in March of this year.
Most of these musicians live on the Lower Mainland and are performing on the Island thanks to the efforts of Dave Paulson and U-JAM, the Victoria jazz society dedicated to developing the local jazz scene.
McDougall, who has played in some of the best bands in the world, including the Boss Brass, the John Dankworth Band and the Woody Hermann Thundering Herd says the group is a “hot band” and one of the “most fun” he’s ever worked with.
When musicians this talented are enjoying themselves, you can be sure the result will be one of the best jazz concerts of the year.
The Victoria concert takes place at Alix Goolden Hall and the Parksville show at Knox United Church. Both get underway at 8 pm.
Tickets are $35 for Adults/ $30 for U-JAM members/ and $15 for students and can be purchased in advance through the U-JAM website.