Music

Jazz musician Hugh Fraser has died

The 2-time Juno Award winner was a trombonist, pianist, composer and bandleader based in Vancouver.

The 2-time Juno Award winner was a trombonist, pianist, composer and bandleader based in Vancouver

'Hugh Fraser was a beacon of energy and enthusiasm." — Cory Weeds (HughFraser.com)

Jazz musician Hugh Fraser, a stalwart of Vancouver's music scene, has died. He was 62.

A trombonist, pianist, composer and bandleader, Fraser established VEJI (Vancouver Ensemble of Jazz Improvisation) in the early 1980s and released five albums with the group over the ensuing 20 years.

The Hugh Fraser Quintet, which drew its members from VEJI, was a hard-bop ensemble that released 12 albums between 1987 and 2012, garnering three Juno Award nominations and two wins.

News of Fraser's death was confirmed by Cory Weeds, jazz impresario and founder of Vancouver's Cellar Live label.

"Hugh Fraser and his quintet were the Canadian Jazz Messengers," Weeds told CBC Music via email. "As a youngster growing up, I aspired to be in that band. They exemplified everything that jazz is. Hugh was a beacon of energy and enthusiasm."

This performance from the 1988 Montreal International Jazz Festival captures the early days of the quintet.

The Hugh Fraser Quintet's most recent album, Concerto, was released in 2012.

Fraser had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017 but continued to perform as recently as 2019.

"Last October, I got a chance to play three nights with the quintet and record with them," recalls Weeds. "It was the thrill of a lifetime. Hugh was in rough shape but you would only know by looking at him. He was playing with as much passion, excitement and beauty as he ever had."

Listen to Fraser's friends and band mates remember the jazz powerhouse, and hear excerpts of Fraser's last interview with the CBC on Hot Air:

Hot Air remembers Hugh Fraser. The beloved and exuberant jazz powerhouse passed away earlier this week. We will hear from his friends and band mates including Bill Clark, Christine Duncan, and Campbell Ryga as well as Hugh’s last interview with CBC. And of course there’s plenty of Hugh’s wonderful music too. 54:00
 

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