Canadian Jazz Quartet


Mark Eisenman photo
phtoto: CJQ

The original CANADIAN JAZZ QUARTET was founded in 1987, the result of a musical collaboration among four of the best musicians on the Toronto club and studio scene even then: guitarist Gary Benson, bassist Gerry Hoelke, accordionist Gordie Fleming, and drummer Don Vickery.

When illness forced Gord Fleming's retirement, and Gerry Hoelke relocated to Ottawa, the remaining two original members - founder Gary Benson and drummer Don Vickery - invited skilled bassist Bob Price and eminent vibraphonist Frank Wright to bring the talented complement back to four.

This illustrious foursome comprised the CANADIAN JAZZ QUARTET for more than a decade, until Bob Price's death in 2003. Since then, accomplished bassist Duncan Hopkins has lent his formidable talent to helping maintain the standard of jazz excellence established from the CJQ's earliest beginnings.

Photo: Gary BensonGuitarist GARY BENSON, respected by his peers as "one of the hardest swinging players on the jazz scene", has made a significant contribution to jazz in Toronto during a distinguished career spanning more than three decades. Whether backing up a long list of jazz vocalists, including such luminaries as Peggy Lee and Natalie Cole, or playing with other jazz greats such as Peter Appleyard and Ed Bickert, Benson has set a consistently high standard of excellence. He has been a featured player at both the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, and in frequent television appearances. In 1989, Gary Benson founded the Canadian Jazz Quartet (CJQ) with percussionist Don Vickery, and, with the later addition of vibist Frank Wright, and most recently, bassist Duncan Hopkins, the CJQ has become one of Canada's most consistently swinging jazz groups. Benson studied composition in Toronto with the late Gordon Delamont and later, with legendary New York-based guitarist, Jim Hall. An accomplished composer and arranger in his own right, Gary's original compositions and arrangements highlight the CJQ's CDs and live performances. He is also a gifted teacher and many of his students over the years have gone on to establish successful careers of their own, all carrying Benson's unique influence with them.

Photo: Frank WrightVibraphonist FRANK WRIGHT has been an important part of the Toronto jazz scene since the 1950s when he was a regular performer on the 'after hours' club circuit. During its existence, he appeared regularly at Toronto's Bourbon Street with clarinetist Henry Cuesta, and toured with him to California jazz festivals in Palm Springs, San Diego, and Sacramento. He was a frequent performer with The Garden Avenue Seven in Florida and on tour across the U.S. In the mid 1980s he formed a quartet with well-known drummer Archie Alleyne and together, they were often featured at the famous George's Spaghetti House. He has worked with celebrated jazz names including Joe Williams, Norman Amadio, Jim Galloway, Rob McConnell, and Peter Appleyard, and even played for HRH Prince Philip in a private performance during a Toronto visit. Wright's own trios and quartets have appeared often at major Canadian jazz festivals over the past many years. He is a featured soloist in the Bob DeAngelis Champagne Symphony during their internationally-renowned Benny Goodman Tribute concerts including their 2008 Carnegie Hall triumph. In 2006, Frank Wright was nominated as "Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year" during the National Jazz Awards.

Photo: Duncan HopkinsDUNCAN HOPKINS has established himself as a respected bassist, composer, arranger and jazz educator internationally, touring extensively throughout Canada, Great Britain, Europe, Brazil, and the United States, and living and working in the U.K. for extended periods. He studied with Niels-Henning Orsted Pederson in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he also met and studied with Red Mitchell and Kenny Wheeler, later studying bass and composition with Dave Holland in New York. He is currently a visiting professor of jazz studies at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, England. Hopkins has played as a sideman for a wide variety of artists including Diana Krall, Mark Murphy, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, Lester Bowie, Scott Hamilton, Sam Rivers, and arrangers Robert Farnon and Ralph Carmichael. He was a member of Rob McConnell's 'The Boss Brass' for four years, and can be heard on more than 40 albums, as well as numerous CBC, BBC, and NPR recordings. In 1999, Duncan Hopkins was awarded the Montreal International Jazz Festival's 'Prix de Jazz du Maurier' (with the Chris Mitchell Quintet). He is a Juno Award nominee for his "Secret" CD, and in 2006 was nominated as the National Jazz Awards' "Bassist of the Year".

Photo_Don VickeryDrummer DON VICKERY relocated to Toronto from Halifax in 1959, and has been a vital part of the jazz scene there ever since. An honors graduate of the famed Oscar Peterson School of Music, Don has played on recordings, on radio and television shows, touring, and in live performance in hundreds of venues from clubs to concert halls with the world's leading jazz artists, entertainers, and big bands including Ralph Sutton, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Benny Carter, Joe Williams, Jay McShann, Buddy DeFranco, Peter Appleyard, The World's Greatest Jazz Band, Art Farmer, Doc Cheatham, Zoot Sims, Doug Riley, Ed Bickert, Dave McMurdo, Red Norvo, Joe Venuti, Jack Sheldon, Herb Ellis, Jimmy Witherspoon, Della Reese, Fraser MacPherson, Norman Amadio, Jim Galloway, Rob McConnell, Buddy Tate, Moe Koffman, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Tony Bennett, and Mel Torme. Don Vickery has been a member of the Jazz Studies Faculty at Humber College since 1974. He is currently a long-time member of the Jim Galloway Wee Big Band, the Canadian Jazz Quartet, The Spitfire Band, the Norman Amadio Trio, and Jim Galloway's "Echoes of Swing" Sextet. He has been Music Director at Quotes Bar & Grill in downtown Toronto since the establishment of a jazz policy there in 2006.