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Fraser MacPherson
Tenor and alto saxophones, flute, clarinet

Born: April 10, 1928
St. Boniface, MB
Died: September 28, 1993

Raised in Victoria, BC, John Fraser MacPherson played clarinet and piano during his formative years. Later he took up the alto and tenor, establishing himself first in Vancouver as an altoist in the bebop tradition before learning to appreciate the subtleties of Johnny Hodges. He stuck to the tenor from the early 1970s on, earning an international reputation, largely influenced by Lester Young, whom he revered.

MacPherson moved to Vancouver in 1948. In 1956-57 he studied in New York with Vincent James Abato (saxophone) and Henry Zlotnick (flute). He worked for 20 years in local nightclubs, among them the Palomar (1950-4, with the bands of Chuck Barber, Bob Reid, and Lance Harrison) and the Cave (1961-3 with Chris Gage, 1964-70 leading his own band), where he played with such visiting luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Earl Hines, Tony Bennett and Duke Ellington. Concurrently he was a first-call studio musician (saxophone, flute, and clarinet) and occasionally played saxophone with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

For many years MacPherson pursued his jazz career largely on CBC radio and TV, initially as a member of the Ray Norris Quintet (circa 1951) and later as a featured sideman with Doug Parker and trombonist Dave Robbins on such shows as 'Jazz Workshop,' as well as fronting his own groups, including a quintet in the early 1960s featuring Carse Sneddon on trumpet and valve trombone, and Gage on piano. Those musicians were later replaced by Ian MacDougall on trombone and Parker on piano. He was heard on alto saxophone as the leader of a nonet in the so-called West Coast style on 'Jazz Workshop' and 1963-4 with a string orchestra in a CBC series of his own called 'The Pretty Sounds of Jazz' (later 'The Sounds of the Sixties').

In 1975 MacPherson formed a trio with Oliver Gannon (guitar) and, initially, Wyatt Ruther (bass). Its first LP, drawn from a CBC broadcast that year at the MacMillan Planetarium in Vancouver, was issued under MacPherson's own West End label and sparked wider interest in his controlled, elegant tenor style. The album was picked up for distribution by RCA and later re-released on the Concord Jazz label, where he recorded several other albums, leading to a belated career on the international jazz stage.

In 1978, under the aegis of Overture Concerts, he made the first of an unprecedented four tours in the USSR -- his was the first North American jazz group to be invited back behind the former Iron Curtain. Other tours followed in 1981, 1984, and 1986. MacPherson performed under Radio Canada International sponsorship in Europe (Montreux, The Hague) in 1979. In Canada he has made several national tours and performed at most of the major festivals -- eg, the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1982 and 1984, the Edmonton Jazz Festival in 1984 and 1986, and regularly at the Vancouver Jazz Festival. He also has appeared on occasion in the USA (Concord and the Kool Jazz Festival in Detroit with Rosemary Clooney) and in 1986 performed in Australia.

MacPherson has remained a favourite on CBC radio jazz shows, among them 'Jazz Radio-Canada' and 'Jazz Beat,' and was host in the summer of 1977 for the former program's series devoted to the history of jazz in Canada. MacPherson was nominated for two Juno Awards, winning 'Best Jazz Album' in 1983 for his duo recording with Gannon (I Didn't Know about You). Besides work under his own name, MacPherson can be heard on recordings by Anita O'Day, Oliver Jones, Charles Mountford, Eiji Kitamura, Dave McMurdo and the Canadian Jazz All-Stars (featuring Jones, Ed Bickert, Jim Galloway, Terry Clarke and Dave Young).

MacPherson was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1987 and won the Oscar Peterson Trophy shortly before his death in 1993. In the summer of 1993, Pacific Music Industry Association (PMIA) created the Fraser MacPherson Scolarship Fund which annually awards grants of $2000 to from four to eight young music students.

See also: 1976 Interview with Fraser MacPherson

Recordings as leader:

In the tradition - Concord Jazz CCD4506 - 1991

Ian McDougall (trombone)
Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Steve Wallace (bass)
John Sumner (drums)

Louisiana
Why am I blue ?
Struttin' with some barbecue
A hundred years from today
Constantly
When it's sleepy time down south
Desolation blues
You're lucky to me
If you could see me now
Dream of you
Ol' Bill's blues

Encore - Justin Time JTR8420- 1990

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Steve Wallace (bass)
John Sumner (drums)


Originally recorded for broadcast on CBC Radio's "Jazz Beat".

Up in Steve's room
Everything I love
Someday you'll be sorry
Chelsea bridge
Comes love
Rabbit's habit
If dreams come true
Come Sunday
You're driving me crazy
Easy street
Night spot

Honey and spice - Justin Time JUST 23-2 - 1987

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Steve Wallace (bass)
John Sumner (drums)

 

Soon
How deep is the ocean ?
How long has this been going on ?
Blue prelude
I love you Samantha
Suddenly it's spring
Memories of you
You took advantage of me
 

Jazz Prose - Concord Jazz CJ269 - 1984

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Dave McKenna (piano)
Ed Bickert (guitar)
Steve Wallace (bass)
Jake Hanna (drums)

 

You'd be so nice to come home to
All alone [by the telephone]
On a slow boat to China
Darn that dream
Happy man
I'll never be the same
It could happen to you
There is no greater love

Indian Summer - Concord Jazz CJ269 - 1984

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Steve Wallace (bass)
Jake Hanna (drums)

 

Recado bossa nova
As long as I live
Sophisticated lady
'S wonderful
'Deed I do
Indian summer
All my life
Just my luck
Long ago and far away
 

I Didn't Know About You - Sackville 4009 - 1980

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)

 

This heart of mine
Do nothin' till you hear from me
Everything happens to me
All by myself
The more I see you
Mean to me
I didn't know about you
Day by day
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square
You go to my head
In a mellotone
 

Jazz Canada Europe '79 - CBC RCI503 - 1979

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Wyatt Ruther (bass)

Live "Northsea Jazz Festival", The Hague, Holland, July 13, 1979 and "Montreux Jazz Festival", Montreux, Switzerland, July 16, 1979. Issued as part of 4 LP set.

 

You'd be so nice to come home to
Someday you'll be sorry
All alone [by the telephone]
I'm getting sentimental over you
Don't get around much anymore
Sophisticated lady
There will never be another you
 

Live at the Planetarium - West End 101 and Concord Jazz CJ92 - 1975

Fraser MacPherson (tenor sax)
Oliver Gannon (guitar)
Wyatt Ruther (bass)

 

I'm getting sentimental over you
Li'l darlin'
Lush life
My funny valentine
Tangerine
Django
I cried for you
 

The Shadow - 1971

Robbie King - Keyboards
George Ursan - Drums
Doug Edwards - Bass
Tony Clitheroe - Bass
Ron Johnson - Keyboard
Eddie Patterson - Guitar
Terry Frewer - Guitar
Ken Moore - Percussion
Corlynn Hanney - Vocalist
Howie Vickers - Other Vocalist
Harlem Globetrotters - Whistling & Spoons

 

1. The Shadow (Theme From 'Skana')
2. The Children's Song
3. We Gotta Good Thing Goin
4. Ilikai
5. Pauline, I Remember
6. Grits & Greens
7. Fraser Valley
8. Walkin In The Sand
9. Fugue For Flute And Friends
10. Sweet Potato
11. Sounds Of Summer Past
12. Colors Of The Rainbow
  In addition to the above MacPherson appears on several CBC LPs, as leader and sideman and recordings by Oliver Jones, Karen Young, Anita O'Day, Bobby Hales, (trombonist) Dave Robbins, Don Clark, Corky Corcoran, Ian McDougall, Doug Parker, and Ray Norris.

Vancouver Musicians Association