Dave Robbins

Dave (David) Robbins. Trombonist, teacher, composer, arranger, b Greenburg, Ind, 14 Aug 1923, naturalized Canadian 1965; B SC music education (Sam Houston State Teachers' College) 1943, M SC (Southern California) 1951.

Robbins, Dave

Dave (David) Robbins. Trombonist, teacher, composer, arranger, b Greenburg, Ind, 14 Aug 1923, naturalized Canadian 1965; B SC music education (Sam Houston State Teachers' College) 1943, M SC (Southern California) 1951. After his university studies and terms with the US Marine Corps and with dance and symphony orchestras, he moved in 1951 to Vancouver. There he was a guiding figure to two generations of jazz musicians, teaching in turn at a city high school, at Vancouver Community College, and 1959-66 at the University of British Columbia. He taught again 1974-80 at the Vancouver Community College, establishing a jazz and commercial music department, and 1980-6 at the University of British Columbia. His pupils have included the trombonists Herb Besson, John Capon, Hugh Fraser, Bob Hamper, Sharman King, Rob McKenzie, and Dave McMurdo.

Robbins was principal trombone 1955-70 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, played for 10 years with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and for more than 30 with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra. He has worked in many Vancouver studio, pit, and jazz orchestras, and led showbands at the Cave and Bayshore Hotel. Having played 1948-54 for the US trumpeter Harry James, he returned to the James orchestra for European tours in the early 1970s.

Robbins' own big band, pre-eminent in Vancouver during the 1950s and 1960s, was heard nationally 1960-6 on 'CBC Jazz Workshop' (alternating weekly with Phil Nimmons), performed on other CBC programs, and appeared at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. For the band, the CBC commissioned works by the Vancouver composers Al Macmillan, Ian McDougall, Doug Parker, Paul Ruhland, Ray Sikora, Robert Turner (Robbins' Round), and others, and by the US composers Dick Grove and Lalo Schifrin. Repertoire included both conventional and third-stream works. Ruhland, for example, the band's bassist, completed Contrasts, Passacaglia, Brass Fantasia for Large Jazz Orchestra, and Twelve Tone Suite for Twelve Piece Jazz Orchestra. Robbins, Parker, and Dave Pepper were among the band's arrangers. With the Vancouver SO it gave the North American premiere ca 1965 of Richard Rodney Bennett's Piece for Jazz Band and Orchestra and the Canadian premiere 25 Feb 1966 of John Dankworth and Matyas Seiber's Improvisations for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra, and also performed Rolf Liebermann's Concerto for Jazz Band and Symphony Orchestra.

Robbins' own compositions include film and radio scores and, inspired by his experiences on one of several trips for the CBC to United Nations peace keeping installations, the four-movement Jazz Impressions of the Middle East (1967). He has arranged music for such CBC programs as 'Parade' (TV), 'Sound of the Sixties' (TV), 'Music-Canada' (radio and TV), and 'Variety Showcase' (radio). His recordings include several albums for the CBC's RM and LM broadcast series (listed in the Canadian Jazz Discography) and the privately released Everywhere (1973) by the US tenor saxophonist Corky Corcoran, a fellow Harry James alumnus for whom Robbins composed and conducted the big-band accompaniment.


Further Reading

  • Littler, William. 'Here's rave about Dave,' Vancouver Sun, 25 Feb 1966

    'David Robbins' Jazz,' CBC Times, 10-16 Mar 1962

    Smith, Bob. 'Dave Robbins,' MSc, 243, Sep-Oct 1968

    - 'Winter's warm blast,' Vancouver Sun, 11 Dec 1970

    Wong, Chris. 'A lifelong love affair with jazz,' Vancouver Sun, 13 Aug 1988