The idea began as a way to mourn the loss of a dear friend. It quickly became a Kickstarter for an album, and will finally culminate in a concert and mini-documentary at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
Vancouver jazz legend Ross Taggart was an instructor at the Capilano University Jazz Studies program from 1998 up until his passing from cancer in 2013. Vancouver’s jazz community was rocked by the loss of the man known to many as the “heart” of Vancouver jazz. Tomorrow, former student and Cap U alumnus Cory Weeds—along with Cap U jazz instructors Bill Coon, Brad Turner and other members of the Jill Townsend Big Band—will pay homage to their friend in a concert releasing a new album in his memory.
“There will be a lot of feeling in the room,” says band member and Capilano Jazz Studies instructor Bill Coon. He says that many band members and those in the audience will be people who were “really close friends” to Ross. “To have so many musicians on the same page—not just musically but emotionally—it will be a special moment.”
A healing journey
The process of creating the album Legacy, the Music of Ross Taggart, began when musician and Capilano alumnus Cory Weeds—founder of Vancouver’s Cellar Jazz Society and Cory Weeds Presents—decided that he wanted to arrange an official tribute for Ross Taggart, who passed away in 2013.
“I wanted to do something that preserved and continued Ross’ legacy— this project does exactly that,” says Cory. “We all loved Ross and miss him. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and the massive impact he had on my life.”
It was Cory who initiated a successful Kickstarter campaign to record the album.
“There were a lot of strong feelings after Ross died in his forties from cancer,” says Bill Coon, who collaborated with Ross professionally and counted him as a friend for nearly twenty years. “The idea came up—how do we tribute this person?”
The concept blossomed from there. Ross’ friends decided to transform the music that Ross had written into big band arrangements, recording his compositions with a large ensemble of his friends and peers. The process of compiling, arranging and recording the music took eighteen months. The resulting album will feature ten big band charts arranged by Bill Coon, Jill Townsend and Bill Runge, all played by the Jill Townsend Big Band—of which Ross was a member.
“Ross was an enormously talented pianist, saxophonist and composer. As a founding member of the band, he played lead tenor with us for twelve years,” says Jill. “Obviously, losing him hit the entire jazz community very hard.”
Jill says for her, the project has been “a very personal journey of coming to terms with his loss.” Working through Ross’ music and performing and recording it has been healing, she says.
Gathering of friends
Seventeen musicians will come together to pay tribute and play Ross’ music, with the addition of special guest Campbell Ryga. Of the musicians, seven are connected to Capilano University: instructors Bill Coon, Brad Turner, Dennis Esson, Dave Robbins, Steve Kaldestad and Chad Makela, and alumnus Cory Weeds.
At the opening of the June 30 concert, there will be a pre-performance showing of a 12-minute documentary on the life of Ross Taggart and how the tribute album came into being. The Pyatt Hall venue is an intimate venue holding just over one hundred people—a perfect place to pay tribute, according to Bill Coon.
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