Montreal jazz icon Vic Vogel dies at 84

Legendary Canadian jazz musician Vic Vogel has died at the age of 84. 

He passed early Monday morning next to his Steinway piano, which he had played since he was 16, according to a post on his Facebook page.

Victor Stefan Vogel, who became a pianist, conductor, composer, arranger and trombonist, was born in Montreal on Aug. 3, 1935.

“Jazz is the thing I love,” Vogel told Radio-Canada in a 1960s interview. “It’s powerful; it’s alive. It’s so much fun; it’s interesting — ah!” 

His work includes more than 2,000 pieces, arrangements and compositions; his name is on more than 60 albums, and he has given more than 10,000 performances. 

The ever-colourful bandleader has played at almost every Montreal International Jazz Festival, including the very first one in 1980.

A musician with a public profile since the age of 14, Vogel was mostly self-taught. He played in several dance orchestras in the 1950s, eventually conducting his own musical ensemble in 1960 at Club Chez Parée. 

He then toured with the Parisian vocal group Les Doubles Six in 1961 and later, the Société Radio-Canada’s jazz orchestra in 1966. 

In 1968, he founded The Big Jazz Band, which he conducted for more than 50 years. 

The album Vic Vogel and the Awesome Big Band entered the American Billboard chart in 1987. 

Singer-songwriter Celine Dion gets a hug from jazz pianist Vic Vogel following their performances at a gala event honouring songwriter Eddy Marnay, in Gatineau Que., on Wedneday July 9, 2003. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Vogel has shared the stage with more than 2,000 artists, among them some of the legendary musicians of all time. 

They include Paul Anka, Sammy Davis Jr., Édith Piaf, Celine Dion, Michel Legrand, Jerry Lewis, Chucho Valdés, Maynard Ferguson, Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Phil Wood, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Tormé and Dizzy Gillespie.

In 2005, Vogel represented the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the European Broadcasting Union named him to compose, arrange and conduct the European Youth Jazz Orchestra, with which he toured in Europe and recorded an album in tribute to Oscar Peterson’s 80th birthday.