What's so good about Phil Dwyer?


I like to start these posts with some sort of concise statement on why the musician being profiled is so important. I was going to do that with Phil Dwyer, but Canadian jazz legend Don Thompson does it so much more eloquently than I could. He says:

"I've been a working professional musician for fifty years. I've played with a lot of the world's greatest musicians and I can honestly say I've never known a better musician than Phil Dwyer. He's a saxophonist, pianist, composer, arranger, producer and teacher and he does all these things at the highest possible level. He is a constant inspiration to everyone who knows him."

What I remember most about seeing Phil play for the first time - likely when I was in university, and likely at The Rex Hotel - was the energy and excitement he brought to the gig. I felt as if he was barely able to contain how much fun he was having, and how much music there was inside trying to get out. To say that he's very good at the saxophone is an understatement - his technical proficiency and musicality on the instrument are impressive. I was even more impressed the first time I saw him play piano - he played with the same energy, excitement, proficiency and musicality on that instrument too. Here's a clip of Phil tearing it up on an arrangement of "Giant Steps" (his solo starts at about 0:48):

Technical proficiency on multiple instruments, though, is only one side of Phil Dwyer - he is also an accomplished arranger and composer. Phil has written for groups of all sizes - from jazz combos to big bands to symphony orchestras - in a variety of genres including jazz, classical and contemporary music. In fact, his most recent JUNO Award win was for a work he wrote for orchestra and solo violin (Mark Fewer). Here's a sample of Phil's arranging, taken from his "Canadian Songbook" project, which also features a softer - but no less intense - side of Phil the saxophonist:

Phil's passion for performing and arranging is matched equally by his passion for teaching - he's taught at some of the biggest post-secondary institutions across Canada, the United States and in Europe. To me, Phil Dwyer is the complete musician - passionate and high-energy playing; composing and arranging; teaching - and it's always a treat to see him live. We're sometimes not the best at tooting our own horns in Canada...Phil is one of the musicians who deserves acclaim.

Here's one last clip, this time showing off Phil in the trio format which will be featured at this year's festival:

Phil Dwyer will be at The Jazz Bistro, along with son Ben Dwyer on bass and Jim Doxas on drums, on June 23 at 8 pm. For complete information, visit his concert page.


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