Vern Isaac

Vern (Vernon Clarence) Isaac. Saxophonist, vibraphonist, bandleader, b Pittsburg, Texas, 21 Oct 1913, d 16 Dec 1999.

Isaac, Vern

Vern (Vernon Clarence) Isaac. Saxophonist, vibraphonist, bandleader, b Pittsburg, Texas, 21 Oct 1913, d 16 Dec 1999. Vernon Isaac travelled widely in the USA 1929-47, playing alto or tenor saxophone in passing with such leading jazz figures as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Fletcher Henderson, before forming a lounge group, Three Jacks and a Jill, in Philadelphia. The group, which included the bassist Charles Biddle, subsequently performed in Montreal and toured Quebec. Isaac remained until 1973 in Montreal where he played in and/or led showbands at the Montmartre and Rockhead's Paradise. He also toured in Ontario and the Maritimes during this period with various groups - eg, the L.V.J. Trio, with Jimmy Valdez (organ) and Lem Neal (drums).

Moving to Ottawa in 1973, he quickly became a mainstay of the local jazz scene. He formed a 12-piece swing orchestra (brass, rhythm and his own saxophones and vibraphone) in 1976 and performed thereafter for many Jazz Ottawa functions and regularly during the 1980s at both the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and the FIJM. Isaac's discography includes the L.V.J. Trio's The Big Bamboo (1968, Vintage SCV-130) and the orchestra's Live! Downstairs San Antonio Rose (1984, V.I.C. Records V.I.C.-235). His playing on the latter drew praise for 'a faintly growling, nicely turned swing-to-bop style that is the most finished element of [the band's] performances' (Toronto Globe and Mail, 15 Nov 1984).


Further Reading

  • Miller, Mark. 'Texas tales from two travellin' jazzmen,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 18 Jul 1985

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