Gage, Chris

Chris (b Giesinger, Christian) Gage. Pianist, organist, b Regina 12 Dec 1927, d North Vancouver 27 Dec 1964. He began his career at seven as the pianist in a dance band led by his brother Jerry, a tenor saxophonist, travelling with the band in midwestern Canada for some 15 years, save for a period ca 1946 spent working with Paul Perry. He was heard on CKCK radio from Regina, and on the CBC from Winnipeg. Settling in Vancouver in 1949 Gage quickly became that city's leading jazz pianist, for many years accompanied by the bassist Stan Johnson (b Calgary 23 May 1931, d Vancouver 24 May 1999) and the drummer Jim Wightman (b Regina 5 Jul 1930). Reportedly declining offers to tour with Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, and Peggy Lee, Gage remained in Vancouver until his death. He led the houseband 1961-3 at the nightclub the Cave, starred on 'Blues and a Ballad' (1960), and appeared in such CBC TV series as 'Meet Lorraine' (1958, with Lorraine McAllister) and 'Quintet' and 'Eleanor' (1962 and 1964, both with Eleanor Collins).

Although Gage did not record commercially, he appeared in 1951 on RCI transcriptions 57 and 58 with the guitarist Ray Norris and made CBC RM broadcast recordings (listed in the Canadian Jazz Discography) in the early 1960s with his own group and as a sideman to J.J. Johnson, Fraser MacPherson and Dave Robbins. These LPs, and airchecks from CBC radio's 'Jazz Workshop,' reveal a master jazz pianist whose percussive, rhythmically and harmonically advanced style was well ahead of its time. Gage was considered in his day to have been the only pianist in Canada to rival Oscar Peterson in technical proficiency.Gage is remembered especially for his sensitivity as an accompanist. At the time of his death (by suicide), he was playing piano and organ at the Quadra Club. Don (W.) Thompson, one of his sidemen for the engagement, later wrote For Chris Gage in his honour.