Tributes from Canadian musicians flowed in Wednesday for Victoria-raised musician Ross Taggart.
Taggart, who died Wednesday morning at Vancouver General Hospital, was a well-known saxophonist and pianist. In hospital since October, the Vancouver-based musician had suffered renal cancer.
Victoria born and bred, Taggart became prominent in Vancouver’s jazz scene after moving there in the mid-1980s. The Claremont Secondary School graduate was a member of the Hugh Fraser Quintet, the Ian McDougall Sextet and the Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation. He recorded and played with such notables as Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton, P.J. Perry and Tommy Banks.
Taggart, who was in his mid-40s, was married to musician Sharon Minemoto and taught at Capilano University.
Qualicum Beach saxophonist Phil Dwyer first met Taggart in Victoria when both were in their teens. “He was an exceptional musician,” Dwyer said. “His musicianship was very much reflected in his personality. He was in a lot of ways a comic genius. He was a master.”
Dwyer said Taggart was renowned as a practical joker and a skilled mimic. Taggart enjoyed phoning musician friends pretending to be another musician hiring them “for a gig that didn’t exist.”
He also enjoyed Jerry Lewis-style physical humour. “He liked hurling himself into a wall, completely out of the blue, and then collapsing onto the ground because he knew it would make everyone laugh,” Dwyer said.
A popular musician, Taggart took pains to keep up with his friends. Said Dwyer: “I can’t think of any other musician that I got Christmas cards from.”
In November, musicians staged a sold-out benefit concert for Taggart in North Vancouver. Participating groups — including the Hugh Fraser Quintet and the Ian McDougall Sextet — were all ensembles Taggart had played with.Victoria trombonist McDougall, who’d known Taggart since he was 18, described him as a “fantastic musician” and “the real thing.”
“He was one of the most wonderful human beings you could ever imagine,” he added.
McDougall said there will be an announcement for a public memorial service for Taggart, who has family members in Victoria.
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