Bandleader and saxophone player Jim Galloway, fondly remembered as a driving force behind Toronto’s annual summer jazz festival, has died at 78.
Born in Scotland in 1936, he trained at the Glasgow School of Fine Arts and was an established jazz performer before he moved to Canada in 1964. Known for his love of swing music, he headed numerous bands, including the Wee Big Band.
“Toronto wouldn’t have a jazz festival if it wasn’t for Jim,” says Fay Olson, part of the team that helped put together what was then called the du Maurier International Jazz Festival in the mid 1980s. Galloway was its artistic director until 2009, when he retired from the post.
“I always felt Jim would be a great artistic director of the jazz festival because of all of his world travels, working with the best names,” says Olson. “He could be booking talent all year long instead of scrambling at the last minute to see who was available.”
In spite of all the years Galloway spent in Canada, he never lost his Scottish accent, says Olson, who works in music promotion. She used to try to get him to say one of the festival’s old venues — Downtown Browns — because he would say “Doontoon Broons,” she says.
“Jim was a lovely guy, one of those who sees the good in everyone and always finds a reason to laugh.”
Galloway stayed on as artistic director as the festival morphed into the TD Toronto Jazz Festival and also performed frequently with his band and other performers in town for the event.
The signature performance day would be the last Friday of the festival, says drummer Don Vickery, who performed in Galloway’s bands for 50 years and whom Galloway called his “tiny perfect drummer.”
Vickery, who is five-foot-three, says the two shared a love of puns.
“It was always fun to play with Jim, no matter who we were playing for,” says Vickery.
Galloway had the ability to not only play the saxophone well, but to transmit his love of music to an audience, says Vickery.
“It was a wonderful feeling to see that sent out to the audience.”
Ross Porter, CEO and president of Jazz.FM91, hosted career retrospective broadcast of Galloway this week, with interview clips featuring Galloway’s strong Scottish accent in all its glory.
“He was very charming,” says Porter. “He always had a joke, a comical story to tell you.”
His lifelong pal, retired jazz broadcaster Ted O’Reilly, says Galloway died at home with his wife, Anne Page, after months of declining health.
The two men became friends shortly after Galloway came to Canada and O’Reilly says many people didn’t understand that Galloway also had a European career and was well-known around the world.
His great strength, says O’Reilly, “was melody. He knew hundreds of tunes.”
A private family ceremony was held Jan. 6.