Canadian jazz great Hugh Fraser has died

The Canadian jazz scene is mourning B.C. great Hugh Fraser following news of his passing on Wednesday. He was 62.

The Juno-winning pianist, trombonist, composer, and educator was widely respected in Canada and beyond. He was known for his positive energy that was easily spread to those around him.

Fraser had been in a fight with cancer since 2017. Following his diagnosis, the B.C. jazz community came together for a benefit concert to raise money for the bandleader during his treatment.

Fraser was born in Victoria, B.C., in 1958. He studied with Dave Robbins in Vancouver, Slide Hampton in New York, and Kenny Wheeler in London.

In 1980, Fraser formed the Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation, a cooperative big band known as VEJI for short. After many critically acclaimed performances, awards and recordings, the VEJI remains active to this day.

Later, he earned praise with the Hugh Fraser Quintet, a hard-bop band that won two Juno Awards — in 1989 and 1998 — and toured internationally to wide acclaim.

Throughout his career, Fraser contributed to ensembles and recordings by Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Clifford Jordan, Kenny Wheeler, Peter Erskine, Dave Holland, Chucho Valdes, and many more.

Fraser studied and then taught at the Banff Centre of Fine Arts, eventually becoming head of its jazz program in 1991. There, he founded the Hugh Fraser International Jazz Orchestra Workshop and presented it in Ireland, England, the U.S. and most cities across Canada. He also held teaching appointments in jazz education at the Royal Academy of Music, the University of Ulster, the University of Victoria, and the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Adding to his legacy, Fraser leaves behind a repertoire of more than 200 original jazz works.

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