We're already eight days in, but I think I can still safely say - happy new year! I hope you all had a chance to relax and unwind.
The holiday season brings a mix of emotions for me each year. Typically I'm away from home, but surrounded by family nonetheless. I'm usually in much cooler climes (I actually saw a windchill of minus 40 this year), but a break from the hustle and bustle of this big city is always welcome. And while I always look forward to my early-January trip to New York (I leave tomorrow for four days), that same trip means a return to work and a return to a busy schedule.
This year the season was especially bittersweet with the news, on December 30, that Jim Galloway had passed away.
Before the break, my last blog post was on generosity. When thinking about Jim, the word "generous" easily comes to mind.
If you don't know, Jim was the founding Artistic Director of what was at that time called the DuMaurier Downtown Jazz Festival. He held the post for 24 years, through a variety of changes, challenges and successes, until it became what it's called today - the TD Toronto Jazz Festival...all while actively making outstanding music of his own as a saxophonist (and sometimes singer) at home and around the world. (See the article in yesterday's Toronto Star.)
I didn't know Jim nearly as well as so many in the jazz community who have written such beautiful tributes on various online platforms. I came to know him personally only in the last seven years - first through my involvement with the Jazz Performance and Education Centre, then through my work here at the festival.
When I started in the role of Artistic Director, he always said "We should have a drink." It took us a while, but we finally did get together a couple of times at his place. The first time I was there for a couple of hours, and I think we tasted three scotches (I'm a scotch novice). On my second visit, both length of visit and number of scotches doubled. Over the course of my visits, and the various other interactions I had with Jim, his generosity of spirit, his love of life, his absolute passion for and dedication to music became clear.
Jim seemed to have music coursing through his veins. He was always singing or whistling as he went from place to place. His knowledge of jazz was encyclopedic, and his interest in music was broad - broader, no doubt, than some gave him credit for. He had a passion for performing - not for the spotlight, but for the pleasure of making music and sharing the stage with others. Even in the fall, when he wasn't strong enough to play, he took to the stage at the Ken Page Memorial Trust to sing a tune or two. Jim had a quick wit, never missing an opportunity for a joke, a pun or a hilarious anecdote. It was always a pleasure to see him at the festival, or to have him drop by the office unexpectedly to visit the team.
The idea of generosity goes far beyond giving and getting. Jim was an outstanding example of a generous spirit, happy to share the passion for which he played and lived his life, both on stage and off.
We generally try to keep things light here in the office. As my colleague once said to me, "I'm not sure what a jazz emergency would look like." We are, after all, in the entertainment business. With Jim's passing, though, it's hard not to feel as though a piece of the festival is now missing. But he would never want us to feel down. And we can take comfort that somewhere, in that great jazz club in the sky, there is one helluva jam session going on.