ARTIST

Gage, Chris

"He was Mr. Vancouver Jazz Pianist. There was nobody that even really came close."
-Terry Clarke

December 12, 1927—December 27, 1964

INSTRUMENT Piano

"...the best musician in Western Canada"
-Don Thompson


Ask anybody. Vancouver's greatest pianist in the 1950s was Chris Gage. Even the late Oscar Peterson allegedly once said Chris Gage was the only pianist he feared. Al Neil, who for many years was resident pianist at the Cellar - Vancouver's first jazz club in the 1950s - has also referred to Chris Gage as "the master."


"He was a phenomenon."
-Doug Parker


Chris Gage was undeniably Vancouver's first-call pianist and one of the busiest studio musicians in the city. "Harmonically, he was really, really hip," says Don Thompson, who worked closely with Gage as a sideman bassist and vibraphonist for many years. "He had killing time, he really swung--It didn't seem that there was anything he couldn't play," states Thompson. Drummer Terry Clarke, like all of his colleagues, greatly admired Gage's playing. "It always seemed that you didn't need an orchestra," raves Clarke. "He was an orchestra himself."


"Everybody recognized he was a borderline genius."
-Don Thompson


Gage settled in Vancouver in 1949 and stayed there until his death despite many offers to tour with famed out-of-town musicians. Says Vancouver singer Eleanor Collins, "People like Peggy Lee would come into town and they would just try and steal Chris." Gage appeared regularly with Collins on her national TV series, The Eleanor Show (1955). "If he was working behind a singer, he was just the best accompanist you'd ever heard," says Don Thompson. "It was unbelievable the way he played behind Eleanor Collins. You can ask her about that." Gage appeared on many other CBC TV programs in various ensembles including his own trio featuring Stan "Cuddles" Johnson on bass and Jimmy Wightman on drums. Gage rarely recorded commercially, and aside from a few LPs and air checks from CBC Radio in the early 1960s, most of his recordings are not widely available.


"Chris was everybody's favourite piano player; everybody's best friend. He was really such a nice guy."
-Don Thompson


Chris Gage's death by suicide in December of 1964 came as a sudden shock to many and seemed to change the Vancouver jazz scene completely. "It really messed everybody up," recalls Don Thompson, who played at the Quadra Club with Gage at his last gig before his death. "Everybody just got really sad and depressed, and it just seemed like all the energy went out from everything." It has been said that people actually stopped writing music for piano players, for there was no one able to fill Gage's enormous shoes.

PHOTO GALLERY

Click on thumbnail for larger image

  • Gage, Chris
  • Chris Gage
  • Chris Gage Trio
  • Gage, Chris
  • Gage, Chris

AUDIO



Chris Gage Trio - "Bijou"


Chris Gage plays "The Trolley Song"



VIDEO



Chris Gage Trio plays "Just One of Those Things"


Don Thompson on Chris Gage (part 1)


Don Thompson on Chris Gage (part 2)


Chris Gage's death (part 1)


Chris Gage's death (part 2)


Terry Clarke on Chris Gage (part 1)


Terry Clarke on Chris Gage (part 2)


Terry Clarke on Chris Gage (part 3)


Terry Clarke on Chris Gage (part 4)


BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Gage, Chris"
(Encyclopedia article)
Smith, Bob. "Gage, Chris." The Canadian Encyclopedia Online. 03 Jun 2008. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/

Doug Parker Interview
Parker, Doug. Personal Interview. "Doug Parker: Solos and Sets." 2005. (Disc 4, track 5.)

JazzStreet Vancouver Interview
Clarke, Terry. Personal Interview with Mark Miller. Toronto, ON. 20 Dec 2005.

JazzStreet Vancouver Interview
Collins, Eleanor. Personal Interview with Colleen Savage. Vancouver, BC. 02 Nov 2005.

JazzStreet Vancouver Interview
Thompson, Don. Personal Interview with Mark Miller. Toronto, ON. 20 Dec 2005.

FOR MORE INFO

"A Taste of Honey"
(You Tube Video)
Chris Gage plays with Stan "Cuddles" Johnson on bass and Jimmy Wightman on drums (early 1960s).