Oliver Gannon CM (born 23 March 1943) is an Irish-born Canadian guitarist. He won the National Jazz Award's Guitarist of the Year and is known for his collaborations with Fraser MacPherson that led to a 1983 Juno award for Best Jazz Album.
Oliver Gannon in 2015
Photo by Pat Gannon
|Birth name||Oliver Gannon|
23 March 1943|
|Origin||Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, arranger, educator|
|Years active||1961 – present|
|Associated acts||Pacific Salt, RIO, Fraser MacPherson, Ian McDougall, Ron Johnston, Miles Black|
The eldest son of Irish jazz pianist Joe Gannon, Oliver Gannon was born in Dublin, Ireland, and emigrated with his family to Winnipeg, Canada, in 1957 when he was 14. He began playing in his late teens, after he purchased a Gibson ES-125 electric guitar and amplifier with his leftover tuition money earned from his summer job.
Gannon enrolled at the University of Manitoba to study engineering but changed his mind. "I remember a thermodynamics class at 8 o'clock in the morning, having been playing the night before, and the blackboard was full of the Second Law of Thermodynamics or something, and I looked up at that and said, 'Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life, or do I want to do what I was doing last night?' A light bulb went off and I literally got up in the middle of the class, walked out, and never came back." In 1964, he was accepted at the Berklee College of Music, where he studied composition and arranging with Herb Pomeroy and William Malloff, graduating in 1969. He credits this period in Boston with his exposure to jazz musicians such as Wes Montgomery, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, and Paul Chambers.
Returning to Canada in 1969, Gannon settled in Vancouver, where he became a popular session musician. He worked often at the Cave Supper Club, joining Fraser MacPherson's big band. "The Cave band was such a joy to play," remembers Gannon. "These guys were such excellent readers... They would play a brand new show perfectly the first time."
In 1970 he co-founded the fusion group Pacific Salt with trombonist Ian McDougall, Don Clark (trumpet), Ron Johnston (piano), Tony Clitheroe (double bass, bass guitar), and George Ursan (drums). Pacific Salt recorded three albums and was inactive by the early 1980s. McDougall, Gannon, and Johnston recorded as a trio in 1976 and 1988. In 1990, they toured Canadian festivals under the name RIO.
In 1975 Gannon was invited by MacPherson to form a trio with bassist Wyatt Ruther. The collaboration lasted until MacPherson's death in 1993. With MacPherson's trio, Fraser & Friends, Gannon toured the U.S.S.R an unprecedented four times starting in 1978. The trio was the first Canadian group to tour the Soviet Union under the Soviet-Canadian Cultural Exchange Treaty. The group intended to play nine concerts in Moscow and Leningrad, but the schedule was expanded to thirteen. The group became the first North American jazz ensemble to be invited back, and they toured again in 1981, 1984, and 1986.
Gannon has participated in groups in the Vancouver area and has played at most major festivals in the world: Montreux Jazz Festival (1979); North Sea Jazz Festival (1979); Concord Jazz Festival (1981); Montreal Jazz Festival (1982, 1984, 1995, 1997); Toronto Jazz Festival (1986, 1989, 1995, and 1998), Edmonton's Jazz City (1985), and appearances in his home town at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
As well as being a sought after performer, Gannon expanded his musical activities to musical education and entertainment as musical director for PG Music Inc., a software company founded by his younger brother Dr. Peter Gannon. He was with the company since its inception in 1989, and has served as the executive producer of program content and has guided the creation of many music instructional software titles complete with transcripts, including The Jazz Guitarist, the Jazz Guitar Master Class and Oscar Peterson Note-for-Note, an instructional CD-ROM. Oliver has also performed and produced hundreds of hours of musical content for the company's flagship musical accompaniment and creation product Band-in-a-Box. Oliver retired from the company in 2008.
In 1983 Gannon and MacPherson shared the Juno Award (Canadian Grammy) for Best Traditional Jazz Album for their LP of duets, I Didn't Know About You. In 2003 Oliver was named Canada's "Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year" by the National Jazz Awards. Oliver has performed on many Juno nominated albums, including three with Ian McDougall: Best Traditional Jazz Album, In A Sentimental Mood (2006), Instrumental Album of the Year The Very Thought Of You (2013), and Traditional Jazz Album, The Ian McDougall 12tet Live (2014). Oliver played on Ross Taggart & Co. nominated for Best Jazz Album at the West Coast Music Awards in 1999.
On 29 December 2017, Gannon was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada for his 'achievements as a musician and for his contributions to Vancouver’s jazz scene.'
With MacPherson, Gannon employed an orchestral accompaniment style, while on his own recordings, he displays a masterful, linear, bop-based style, showing his early roots as an admirer of Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery, and the influence of Art Blakey. Other critics have acknowledged Gannon's 'slick, cool stylings', and "studies in careful and complete orchestration. His lines could be crisp and harmonically advanced, or fluid and lyrical."
Solo and as leaderEdit
- 1972 Oliver Gannon (CBC)
- 1990 Oliver Gannon and Company: featuring Campbell Ryga (What It Be)
- 2002 Live at the Cellar (Cellar Live)
- 2004 That's What (Cellar Live)
- 2006 Two Much More with Bill Coon (Cellar Live)
- 2014 Easy Sailing (Cellar Live)
- 2014 Broadway with Miles Black (Cellar Live)
With Don Clark
- 1973: Don Clark (CBC)
- 1975: Don Clark Ragtime Band (CBC)
With Fraser MacPherson
- 1976: Live at the Planetarium (West End, reissued 1978 Concord)
- 1979: Live from Montreaux (Concord)
- 1980: I Didn't Know about You (Sackville)
- 1983: Indian Summer (Concord Jazz)
- 1987: Honey and Spice (Justin Time)
- 1990: Encore (Justin Time)
- 1992: In the Tradition (Concord)
- 1996: Someday You'll be Sorry
- 2007: Live at Puccini's (Recorded 1977) (Cellar Live)
With Ian McDougall
- 1976: Three (Energy)
- 1995: The Warmth of the Horn (Concord Jazz)
- 1999: Dry with a Twist (Barbarian)
- 2005: In a Sentimental Mood – The Ian McDougall Quintet plays Ellington and Strayhorn (Barbarian)
- 2006: Burnin' the House Down (Barbarian)
- 2007: No Passport Required (Barbarian)
- 2012: The Very Thought of You (Ten Mile Music Productions)
- 2012: The Ian McDougall 12tet – Live (Barbarian)
- 1970: Dave Robbins, Dave Robbins Band (CBC)
- 1971: Pacific Salt, Pacific Salt (Country detour Music Service Canada)
- 1980: Fred Stride, First Time Out (Last Time Out)
- 1981: Karen Young, Karen Young (Radio Canada Int)
- 1988: RIO, R.I.O. (Innovation)
- 1989: Charles Mountford, Good Stuff (Unisson)
- 1994: June Katz, New Shoes Blues (Katzeye Productions)
- 1994: George Robert Quintet, Tribute (Jazz Focus)
- 1996: Ed Bickert: The Guitar Mastery of Ed Bickert
- 1998: Ross Taggart, Ross Taggart & Co (Boathouse)
- 2000: Kenny Colman, Straight Ahead (Justin Time)
- 2002: Donnie Clark Quintet: To Swing or Not to Swing (Silver Lake)
- 2012: Cory Weeds Quartet: Cory Weeds, Up a Step: The Music of Hank Mobley (Cellar Live)
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