Obituary: Jim (James Braidie) Galloway, musician

Born: 28 July, 1936, in Kilwinning, Ayrshire. Died: 30 December, 2014, in Toronto, Canada, aged 78.

Highly regarded Ayrshire-born jazz musician who moved to Toronto in the 1960s. Picture: Alison Kerr

Saxophonist and band-leader Jim Galloway was a highly regarded performer on the international traditional and mainstream jazz circuit, and also played a significant off-stage role in the development of the local jazz scene in his adopted home of Toronto, Ontario.

He was brought up in a working-class home in Kilwinning, and acquired his early love of jazz through hearing the music on Radio Luxembourg and the BBC. When his family acquired a new radio, he persuaded his father to let him have the old one for his bedroom.

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He rigged an antenna on the roof of the family house which allowed him to expand his jazz education by picking up more distant sources, notably the American Forces Network broadcasts from Frankfurt.

He enrolled at Glasgow School of Art in 1954, where he completed a degree in Graphic Arts in 1958. More significantly for his future career, however, he began to play jazz at this time, initially on clarinet.

He subsequently added alto, baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones, and the latter became his signature instrument.

He worked with bandleader Alex Dalgleish in his Scottish All-Stars before forming his own band, the Jazzmakers, in 1961. Like his slightly older compatriot, Lochgelly-born saxophonist Joe Temperley, Galloway decided to develop his jazz career closer to the well-springs of the music, but while Temperley made his base in New York, Galloway opted for Toronto in Canada, and moved there in 1964. It was a decision he never regretted.

He made rapid inroads into the jazz scene in his new home, including playing with the Metro Stompers, an established local band led by another expatriate Scot, bass player Jim McHarg, a former leader of the Glasgow-based Clyde Valley Stompers. Galloway joined the Metro Stompers as a permanent member in 1966, and when McHarg moved on two years later, Galloway took over leadership of the band.

He steered the largely traditional orientation of the band’s music in a more mainstream swing direction, and, as he recalled when I spoke with him at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in 1997, it provided a platform which allowed him to share a stage with a range of guest musicians passing through Toronto, many of whom had been his “heroes” on radio or record. They included such musicians as trombonist Vic Dickenson, pianist Jay McShann, trumpeters Doc Cheatham and Buck Clayton, and saxophonist Buddy Tate.

His own reputation continued to grow both in Canada and on the wider jazz scene. He began regular international touring in the mid-1970s, and was a staple on the mainstream festival and later the popular Jazz Party circuit, as well as touring as a soloist working with local rhythm sections.

His itinerary included regular visits to his native Scotland, where he performed at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival and later at the mainstream-oriented Nairn Jazz Festival.

In 1985, the Edinburgh event commissioned Hot and Suite, a large scale work for jazz group and symphony orchestra which he co-wrote with his then wife and fellow Metro Stomper, bassist Rosemary Galloway (the couple subsequently separated in 1994).

The affable and always courteous Galloway fitted well into the established format of these events, in which visiting soloists would be brought together in temporary alliances, usually based around their shared legacy of jazz tunes and standards, with no need for advance preparation, or even a set list in many cases.

Galloway was also interested in more formal arrangements, however, and put together his whimsically named Wee Big Band in 1979, a 17-piece group formed by combining the Metro Stompers with another local band in Toronto.

The Wee Big Band was dedicated to the music of the swing bands of the 1930s and 1940s, and amassed a very large repertoire of arrangements over the years.

They were given the opportunity to reach a wider audience when invited to record an album for CBS Records in 1982, released as Keep the Rhythm Going.

In addition to building his own reputation as one of the leading soprano saxophonists in mainstream jazz, Galloway was also active in other capacities in the Toronto jazz scene. From 1981-7, he was host and music director for a live Saturday afternoon radio broadcast, Toronto Alive!, which featured many visiting guest artists with a local rhythm section.

In 1983, he was asked to take on responsibility for booking artists into the Café des Copains, a local cabaret venue keen to give jazz a try.

It proved a success, and ran with a jazz policy until 1991, when its owner moved the operation to the larger Montreal Bistro, housed in a former piano factory. It became even better known, and Galloway remained involved until its eventual closure in 2006, a victim of the economic realities of running a jazz club. Galloway was also made artistic director of the newly launched Toronto Jazz Festival in 1987, a position he held until 2009, and has both written about and broadcast on jazz. He was a made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2002, in recognition of his services to jazz.

He made a number of highly regarded recordings throughout his career, including albums for the Toronto-based Sackville Records label, and a 1981 release, Bojangles, on Alastair Robertson’s HEP Records in Scotland. He continued to tour and perform into the present decade.

He developed a very personal sound, and while he took his music and his love for jazz very seriously, he always maintained that humour was a key element not only in entertaining an audience, but also in dealing with the wider fluctuations of life.

His aim was always to communicate directly with his listeners, and he maintained that if he sent someone home from a performance feeling better than they had done when they came in, then he had achieved his purpose.

He died following months of illness at the home in Toronto he shared with his second wife, Anne Page.