The most popular jazz instrument in Canada, according to a recent CBC Tonic poll, is the saxophone. The sax conjures up an image of a lone player blowing his horn into the night air as he leans against a light post. That's utterly kitsch, of course.
Canadian saxophone players are abundant and they are hard-working, top-quality craftspeople. They roar when they take the spotlight for a solo. And a few continue to stand in the spotlight even after their solos. The top five sax players, among the hundreds in Canada, are leaders as well as highly accomplished. They appear on Tonic regularly, and they always have something on the go. The first thing that pops into mind when I think of the top five saxophonists in Canada is, "What will they be doing next?"
1. Richard Underhill, Toronto.
A Juno winner, bandleader, eager sideman. Richard Underhill's attitude towards his profession makes him shine. In Toronto, Underhill has reignited the career of the Shuffle Demons and is constantly writing music and being the guy everyone wants to hang around with. From an album that was a love letter to the neighbourhood of Kensington, to national tours, Underhill is always moving forward.
2. Cory Weeds, Vancouver.
Cory Weeds pops to mind as a community builder with a saxophone. When Weeds decided to open a jazz club in Vancouver, it wasn't enough to just open the club; he started a record label to go along with it. He's a jazz impresario, a bandleader, recording artist and the single most forward-thinking saxophonist in Western Canada. We need more Weeds.
3. Phil Dwyer, Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island.
Phil Dwyer knows two things: how to be musical and how to inspire. He's the most musical person I know. He proves it every time he's called to do his job. Dwyer was the winner of the 2011 Juno for his album Changing Seasons. He's a composer, a national "first call" saxophonist and all around good guy.
4. Chet Doxas, Montreal.
Chet Doxas is young, experimental and open to trying new things in music. He plays with big-time jazz musicians like Dave Douglas and makes appearances on award-winning recordings like Les Triplettes de Belleville. There are great things in the future for this Montrealer.
5. P.J. Perry, Edmonton.
P.J. Perry is a world traveller. He plays saxophone on tour as one of the first call sax players for touring Broadway productions. He's also a bandleader and Juno Award-winning recording artist. Throughout Canada, Perry is known as a musician of the highest order.
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on Aug 13, 2012