Jim Galloway (July 28, 1936 – December 30, 2014)

Jim Galloway Photo Credit Bill King.jpg

Submitted by Bill King

It’s only been a only few days since Jim passed away and I’m sure thousands will respond. Jim, to many of us, was the roots sound of jazz in Toronto – the guy who played six nights a week with many of the legends and icons in jazz. I had the privilege of hanging with both Pat and Jim and the late jazz photographer Paul Hoeffler as part of TD Jazz for the past 25 years. There is nothing for my partner Kristine and I like hanging backstage at the summer jazz festival and snapping photos and awaiting Jim’s arrival.

Jim came with an aroma, a very sweet aroma courtesy of his clove-laced cigarettes, one that distinguished him as a man cultured in European tradition. That brand of quality smoke was worn like a crown. I never minded. Jim also loved his cameras – the ones that caught short video clips, the ones that registered a few performance images.

You see, backstage is a social affair – a chance to really get to know someone. This we did on numerous occasions. I can’t speak as family, yet I can say this, Jim was one hell of a musician, pioneer and good hearted person. You see, laughter is a measure of a person. Jim knew how to laugh and share a good story. This I will always treasure. We’ll learn more as the weeks pass from those closest to Jim.

Eleven years ago I sat down with Jim and just talked about the festival and other things. Here’s bit of that conversation. Interview conducted March 10, 2003.

Bill: How did you and Jay McShann connect?


Jim: Way back when Doug Cole, who owned George’s Spaghetti House, took over a space on Queen Street which was to become Bourbon Street, which I named. I did the booking the first year – year and a half, and nobody had ever brought Jay in to play a club here. I hired him and he came up to play a week at the club with Paul Gunther on drums and Fiddler Claude Williams on violin and guitar with an added string he used for bass. We hit it off really well and have become great friends and have worked all over the place. He’s absolutely one of my all time favorite people.

Bill: When did you first come over?


Jim: 1964.

Bill: Did you quickly fall into the local scene?
Jim: Canada was very welcoming in the mid sixties if you had any kind of education and there was always the visa thing into the States. Growing up in Great Britain, I say Toronto as an hour away from New York is still a little more British than American. It seemed like a good place to be and it was.

Bill: Was it a difficult adjustment?


Jim: Well, I was an innocent young man and a member of the British Musicians Union. In all innocence, I went to the Toronto Musicians Union, which at that time was at Dundas Square, and I think there was a fellow Scott who was then the president. You can’t print this verbatim; I know you’re a family magazine, but I made my appointment and went in and he’s sitting behind this big desk. I explained that I was a member of the MU in Glasgow, and that I had immigrated to Canada, and would like to join the local. He looked at me and, apart from saying hello, his next words were, ‘why don’t you F—- off and come back in a year.’ In those days you had to serve a year’s residence. It was amazing – my jaw dropped.

Bill: How did you and John Norris hookup?


Jim: I found out about the magazine Coda. I used to go in and hang around their office just off Yonge Street. I had a day gig as a designer and did some teaching.

Bill: You did a lot of recordings for Sackville over the years.


Jim: That relationship has been very nice and the label has a very good reputation. One of the lucky things for me is that I got into jazz just in time. As a kid I grew up in a little town in Scotland where no one knew what jazz was. Everyone would ask what that noise was I was playing. Through radio I got right into jazz. There was quite a lot of good music on BBC, the American Forces Network and Voice of America and Willis Conover. AFN in Germany came on every night with Artie Shaw’s theme song ‘Nightmare.” I just lay there and listened to jazz. I had a great sense of humour; something you really need to have to survive. I heard the great comics: Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny, Fibber McGee and Molly, Groucho. I got both cultures as well as all of the music.

Bill: You’ve always been a working musician not so much attached to the studio scene.


Jim: I’ve always been. I was lucky enough to hear those recordings of Buddy Tate, Jimmy Rushing, Buck Clayton, Vic Dickinson, who were my heroes and then I got to know them. Then I got to play when them. Then they became friends. It was kind of a dream thing. I got into the music just in time to catch the tail end of that where the wonderful names I had so much respect for I got to meet.

Bill: Who would be in your dream ensemble?

Jim: The small group thing is where it happens. Is this about players I have missed?

Bill: Yes.


Jim: Lester! It must have been something to hear that up close. Red Allen, Lee Morgan. That’s the trouble with this. I’d need to have four groups.

Bill: This is now the eighteenth edition of the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival. What is its origin?
Jim: Prior to our festival there was a fellow Dan Gugila who ran a festival for a couple years but it had nothing to do with our event. We started from scratch. What happened was Jeff Butler was the General Manager of Roy Thomson Hall – Faye Olsen was with the Houston Group and was doing the PR for duMaurier. They were casting about for a vehicle. Jeff Butler suggested the festival would be launched and produced at the hall. He was asked if he knew anybody who knew anything about jazz and he said no but he would find somebody. They asked if he had someone in mind and he said Jim Galloway. The catalyst was really Faye Olsen. She deserves a lot a credit that the festival exists.

Bill: Was it a property of Roy Thomson or an independent body?
Jim: It wasn’t our property at that time. The title sponsor was duMaurier and produced by Roy Thomson Hall. A number of years down the road Pat Taylor and I were approached by duMaurier about putting together a company to look after the festival and that’s when the society was established.

Bill: Is it more difficult running the festival as the years progress beyond the blueprint?
Jim: You know the thing that is most difficult - if you look at it from the point of view of the music – is when the festival first began you could at least approach Dizzy, Miles, Basie, Sarah, Ella – all these people were still around – the stars the music had created. We have quote stars today but they aren’t the same. They don’t have the same magic with the public. I also think the industry has changed significantly over the last few years. There is a certain direction in the music that is set by the recording industry and that tends to drive a lot of festival tours. Although it has some good aspects to it also has some not so good aspects. There are packages that go across the country that help make it more economical booking certain acts and with our dollar…

Bill: How are the fees affecting programming?
Jim: The fees never go down while budgets don’t go up.

Bill: Today a fee for a mid line artist is comparable to that you would have paid an Ella or Sarah another time?
Jim: Yes – it’s all off kilter. I mean if an artist can get this kind of money in the states or Europe I’m happy for them but if you take the value of the Canadian dollar and factor in the exchange – say if you’re spending ten thousand US you’re spending sixteen thousand Canadian. There are acts out there that want a minimum fifteen thousand US. With all the good intentions in the world we can’t do that here.

Bill: Last year I had the possibility of bringing an unknown Latin jazz up from New York. When it got to fee the agent asked for nine thousand US plus travel and rooms for a six or seven piece ensemble. The whole idea was ludicrous.
Jim: This is not an isolated problem; all of the festivals across the country are having the same problems. I really don’t know where it’s going to go. There was a time you were able to get a break with the airlines. Even out of New York a return ticket was over fourteen hundred dollars last year.

Bill: This is you last run with duMaurier?
Jim: Yes. We are on the edge of making some future deals. It’s not public yet, but we’re very close to it. There’s blood out there in the streets. We are one of the fortunate who will be able to replace.

Bill: What if there is a change of guard in the next provincial election can we expect to have dollars for such events say like the amazing funding Quebec invests in its jazz festivals?
Jim: That’s the big dream. It’s a whole different ball game in Quebec. The City on Montreal throws in a pile of money and it’s matched by the province and Feds. Unfortunately, Ontario does not work that way, as you well know.

Bill: Has your programming philosophy changed over the years?
Jim: I think my basic philosophy has always been the same. I try to make a very broad spectrum of music. The origins of music are acknowledged and the directions are as well.  In that sense it serves a two-fold purpose; part of our mandate is to increase awareness among the general public who may not know they like jazz and provide new things for those who are festival goers that they might enjoy. If you can open ears, it’s great. Unfortunately, a lot of people you don’t see in clubs year round do come out for festival time. I wish they would show up all year.

Bill: You’ve had your critics.
Jim: I always will.

Bill: But yet you do program bands that are on the cutting edge or avant garde or whatever they are called at the moment.
Jim: I do catch some of these bands when I play Europe and other times they make applications and explain they can get support from their governments. In particular we’ve had a long association with France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Austria; countries that are more willing to export their art than we are and even Britain whose arts budgets aren’t exactly generous. Part of what a festival does is to give you a chance to hear stuff you wouldn’t normally hear.
Jim: Sometimes if I know a group is going to turn some ears I’ll promote it more diligently.

Bill: When the ten days arrive do you stress out about putting people in seats?
Jim: Once it’s up and running it’s kind of a release. The big machine is going and nothing’s going to stop it. With any luck people are going to enjoy it.

Bill: Looking back any performances or events over the past seventeen years stand out?
Jim: I remember the time we presented Dizzy Gillespie and the United Nations Orchestra and in the dressing room afterwards Dizzy was having such a ball. I had money for him. He says, “I had so much fun tonight I could play for nothing….just kidding.” There are lots of little moments that stay with me - Betty Carter - the last performance of Stan Getz in Toronto. With someone like Getz you knew he wasn’t really well, but with Doc Cheatham it was different. He was in to his nineties and still doing it. If he had passed in the middle of a hot chorus, it would have been okay. There was something poignant about the Getz concert. He played wonderfully. There was something about his demeanor off stage that made you a little pensive. You sensed that he sensed his time was coming to an end.

Bill King Comment: We will truly miss Jim’s big smile, quick wit and passion. If there is life after death - a continuum and the good can still make choices – I know exactly where Jim will be. A foot or so from Kansas City Jay McShann –a few steps closer to Lester Young and hoping Johnny Hodges will ask him to take a few choruses on ‘Jeeps Blues.”