Al Stanwyck, ‘powerful’ lead trumpet with The Boss Brass, dies at 81

Al Stanwyck, the lead trumpeter who played for many years with Canada’s leading jazz big band, has died at the age of 81.

Along with his position with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass, Stanwyck worked with dozens of jazz legends including Buddy Rich, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle, Don Costa and Maynard Ferguson. Stanwyck played first trumpet with Paul Anka for four years and was invited on numerous occasions to tour with Woody Herman, Count Basie and Quincy Jones, but declined because of his commitments to studio projects in Toronto.

Stanwyck died on June 10 due to complications from brain cancer, according to a Facebook post by his daughter, Leah Stanwyck Rogan.

“Many who knew my dad will know what a great sense of humour he had, and always loved to laugh and make others laugh too,” Stanwyck Rogan wrote. “He was our hero — an incomparable adventurer, world traveller, humorist, a brilliantly talented and world-respected musician and, above all, our loving father who will be forever missed but always in our hearts.”

Born on Dec. 11, 1939, in Toronto, Stanwyck went to school in Barrie, Ont. There, he was taught by the prominent bandleader and music historian W. A. Fisher. before continuing his later studies in Toronto. Stanwyck was just 18 when he went on the road with the great Lionel Hampton. He went on to have stints with the Glenn Miller Band (led by Ray McKinley) and Ralph Marterie. Returning to Toronto, Stanwyck became one of the city’s busiest studio musicians, playing on thousands of recordings, commercials, and radio and TV shows.

“It was impossible to not be affected by Al’s tremendous gifts: a powerful personality, an enormous talent for lead trumpet, and a personal drive that was infectious,” said trombonist Russ Little.

“He and I travelled together with many different bands, on many different stages, and for many years,” Little continued. “The memories are overwhelming to me. In many ways, playing his music, Al was among the very best that I’ve ever heard. To play lead trombone directly in front of his stellar, infectious and powerful lead trumpet playing was, quite literally, a hair-raising experience. His strength. His drive. His power and endurance. His dedication to the music was beyond description. He sometimes seemed a walking encyclopedia of the big band era — the serious, big time, big band era. Swing on, Al, and take it on home with one more shout chorus, please.”

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