Phil Nimmons, the legendary musician who was widely acclaimed as an elder statesman of Canadian jazz, has died. He was 100.

Fondly known to many as the “Dean of Canadian Jazz,” Nimmons had a career that spanned more than six decades, in which he composed and arranged more than 400 original jazz compositions and recorded more than 19 albums as a leader for record labels including Verve and RCA. He wrote for his own big bands and small groups, as well as for film, radio, TV, and stage productions.

During that time, Nimmons became a highly respected educator and promoter of jazz in Canada, influencing and mentoring generations of musicians, music teachers and audiences in Canada since the 1950s through his recordings, radio shows, tours, clinics, workshops and programs in universities and summer camps.

Nimmons died Friday, April 5, peacefully at home.

“As Phil would say, he has ‘gone to the land of 2 ‘n’ 4,'” the Nimmons family wrote in their announcement.

Born in Kamloops, B.C., and raised in Vancouver, Phil Nimmons studied at the University of British Columbia before attending the Juilliard School in New York and then the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. It was there in Toronto that he met his wife, Dr. Noreen Liëse Spencer Nimmons.

Together, Nimmons and his wife became part of a community of musicians who worked to preserve and promote Canadian music. As a composer, bandleader, performer, and educator, Nimmons dedicated himself to music in Canada. He was a founding member of the Canadian League of Composers that led to the creation of the Canadian Music Centre. He helped start several music education programs at the University of Toronto, Western University, the University of New Brunswick, and the Banff Centre for Fine Arts. In the 1960s, he and his friends Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown started the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto. He also adjudicated many bands at MusicFest Canada.

Nimmons received many awards and honours throughout his illustrious music career

In 2002, he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement in 2002, Canada’s highest honour for an artist. In 1994, he was named to the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. In 2005, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN.) In 1986, he was the inaugural recipient of the Toronto Arts Award for Creative Excellent in Music and Contribution to Canadian Culture.

In 1977, he won a Juno Award for The Atlantic Suite, becoming the inaugural recipient of the award for “musical excellence in jazz.” He was given the National Jazz Award for clarinetist of the year for 13 consecutive years between 1995 and 2008.

In 2006, Nimmons received the DownBeat Achievement Award for Jazz Education. In 2001, he was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educators Hall of Fame.

Phil Nimmons leaves his children Holly, Carey, and Spencer; his grandchildren Sean, Justin, Melinda, Sasha, Phillip, and Colleen; his great-grandchild Atticus; and countless more whom he considered family.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking those who wish to honour Nimmons by contributing to the Phil Nimmons Legacy Fund, established with at the Canadian Music Centre. Those who wish to share a memory or send a message to the Nimmons family may do so by visiting the contact page at A celebration of life will be planned in the coming months.