Herb Spanier

Herb or Herbie (Herbert Anthony Charles) Spanier. Trumpeter, flügelhornist, pianist, composer, b Cupar, near Regina, 25 Dec 1928, d Toronto 13 Dec 2001. He played guitar and harmonica at five, bugle in Regina cadet bands, and trumpet in high school.

Spanier, Herb

Herb or Herbie (Herbert Anthony Charles) Spanier. Trumpeter, flügelhornist, pianist, composer, b Cupar, near Regina, 25 Dec 1928, d Toronto 13 Dec 2001. He played guitar and harmonica at five, bugle in Regina cadet bands, and trumpet in high school. One of the first beboppers in Canada, and a figure of some legend on the Canadian jazz scene, Spanier played with Paul Perry and with his own 'Boptet' in Regina before working 1949-50 in Chicago and 1950-4 in Toronto. He was a sideman to Paul Bley in New York 1954-5 and Los Angeles 1958-9, and toured out of New York with the Claude Thornhill and Hal McIntyre orchestras in 1955.

An influential jazz musician in Montreal 1956-8 and 1960-71 Spanier taught briefly at Sir George Williams University, performed in various dance, hotel, and CBC orchestras, contributed music to NFB films, and was heard as a leader on the CBC's 'Jazz en liberté' and in such clubs as the Tête de l'Art, the Black Bottom, and the Jazz Workshop. Based thereafter in Toronto, he was a featured soloist 1971-80 with Nimmons 'N' Nine Plus Six (contributing to Nimmons Juno Award winner Atlantic Suite, 1976) and had his own small groups during the 1970s-97, appearing at various Toronto clubs, and occasionally in the 1980s at George's Spaghetti House. In the 1990s Spanier also appeared at festivals such as the 1993 Du Maurier Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, which presented him with its Special Recognition Award. Recording sessions 1993-4 produced new work which is combined with earlier recordings in the CDs Anthology/1962-93, and Anthology Vol. II - 1969-94 (Just 55-2 and 61-2, Justin Time).

By the classical influence apparent in some of his compositions (eg, It, Précis en bleu) Spanier might have seemed to be a formalist, but his fondness for collective, contrapuntal improvisation (in the manner of Lennie Tristano) and his own exuberant, wholly unpredictable character as a soloist, were the marks of a free spirit.


Further Reading

  • Jazz in Canada

    Gilmore, John. Who's Who of Jazz in Montreal: Ragtime to 1970 (Montreal 1989)

    Miller, Mark. The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada (Toronto, 2001)