Norman Marshall Villeneuve

Félix Award Winner NORMAN MARSHALL VILLENEUVE is a Canadian jazz icon who plays with a spirited passion that is exciting and contagious to anyone within earshot. This veteran player has a successful career history spanning more than 60 years. For over 35 years he has made his home in Toronto where he has earned a reputation as 'father figure' to a younger generation of players.

Born in Montreal on May 29, 1938, Villeneuve grew up in the St. Henri District, home to Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, Joe Sealy, Guy Nadon, Charlie Biddle, Nelson Symons and Claude Ranger. At age 8 he began to study tap with his brother, Canadian dancer Charles Griffith, and was a professional dancer from age 10 to 21. Norm studied piano with Daisy Peterson-Sweeney, Oscar Peterson's sister. At age 8, he began to learn how to play drums, his first love, on a homemade kit. With a voracious appetite for jazz he avidly listened to and copied Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Taylor, Philly Joe Jones, Shelly Manne and the great Art Blakey, to whom Norm has dedicated his life’s work.

At age 14 Villeneuve entered the Quebec jazz scene as a professional musician. In the 60s and 70s he worked the Montreal circuit - Arcade, Rockhead Paradise, Chez Paris, Black Bottom, Esquire, and Café la Bohème. In the clubs he met many jazz luminaries including Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones and his hero Art Blakey.

Villeneuve has played with a legion of jazz greats. To name a few they include Duke Ellington, Oliver Jones, Junior Mance, Cootie Williams, Curtis Fuller, Julius Watkins, Frank Motley, Jackie McLean, Ray Draper, Jay McShann, Dave Young, Anita O’Day, Blossom Dearie, Renee Lee, Maxine Sullivan, Charlie Rouse, Booker Irvin, Big Big Miller, “Wild Bill” Davison and Jack McDuff.

Villeneuve won the Félix Award for his work on Oliver Jones’ CD, Just In Time. Oliver Jones hand picked Norm to be his drummer for extensive tours of North and South America as well as several televised specials and tributes to Oscar Peterson. Villeneuve has been engaged to perform for world leaders President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He has shared the stage with Bob Hope, Red Skeleton and Paul Anka.

In 1974 Norm moved to Toronto and quickly established himself as bossman at the jazz clubs around town. He played the Royal York, Westbury, Bourbon Street, George’s Spaghetti House, Top O' The Senator, Bermuda Onion, The Pilot and The Rex. In 1991 Villenueve took his Norman Marshall Villeneuve Jazz Message Sextet on a cross-Canada tour. He has performed at some of the most exciting venues in Canada - The Hummingbird Centre, Air Canada Centre, Place des Arts and House Of Jazz. He is also a fixture in many Canadian jazz festivals across Canada.

Villenueve continues his life's work. Under his banner, “Norman Marshall Villeneuve’s Jazz Message”, he has brought along and given innumerable performance opportunities to a new generation of those who now comprise the best of Canadian jazz, from those who are established musicians, to new college grads, to new Canadians - musicians who are now fast becoming jazz icons in their own right - Bill McBirnie, Robi Botos, Reg Schwager, Bob Brough, Mike Downes, Grant Stewart, Eric Boucher, David Restivo, Jake Wilkinson, Ken Fornetran, Artie Roth, Gord Webster, Shawn Nyquist, Brownman Ali, Mike Pelletier and Brian Chahley.

Norman Marshall Villeneuve is an active and important leader on the Canadian jazz scene.

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