"I've been a working professional musician for fifty years. I've played with a lot of the worlds greatest musicians and I can honestly say I've never known a better musician than Phil Dwyer. He's a saxophonist, pianist, composer, arranger, producer and teacher and he does all these things at the highest possible level. He is a constant inspiration to everyone who knows him". - Don Thompson
More About Phil
On Dec. 30, 2013 Phil Dwyer was appointed as a Member of the Order Of Canada. He was cited for “his contributions to jazz as a performer, composer and producer, and for increasing access to music education in his community.” In January 2015 he was recognized by the Royal Conservatory of Music as an Honourary Fellow. These distinctions come as Dwyer looks back at an illustrious 30+ year career which has crossed stylistic and geographic borders and has included collaborations with a storied roster of great musical artists.
Originally from Canada’s West Coast, Phil Dwyer burst on the jazz scene in Canada, and internationally, in his late teens as a saxophone prodigy and by his early 20s was, to quote Globe & Mail journalist Mark Miller, “startling jazz audiences with his unprecedented command of both tenor saxophone and piano” and with his “extraordinarily authoritative playing….set the country on it’s ear”. Dwyer had sought out the action and excitement of New York City when he was just 17, moving there in fall of 1983 to study with Steve Grossman and David Liebman. Over the next 18 months he opportunity to meet and ‘sit in’ with some of the true jazz legends who were still on the scene at that time including Art Blakey, “Philly” Joe Jones, Rashid Ali, Clarence “C” Sharpe, Tommy Turrentine, Walter Bishop Jr., Junior Cook, Dennis Charles and Joe Chambers, among many others. He also played at the Bottom Line nightclub with Kenny Barron, Buster Williams, Lenny White and Steve Grossman, as well as at the Willow in Boston with Terri Lyne Carrington.
From 1989-2004 Dwyer lived in Toronto, where he was a key fixture in the major jazz clubs, concert halls and recording studios. Among the Tom Harrell, Red Rodney, Renee Rosnes, Ingrid Jensen, Marcus Belgrave and Kenny Wheeler all called upon him to join them on their Toronto visits and as well Dwyer led his own various groups, and co-led bands with bassist Dave Young, multi-instrumentalist and composer Don Thompson, and pianist/organist Doug Riley. Bassist Young, well known for his long tenure with Oscar Peterson had this to say about working with Dwyer…..”Phil Dwyer, in my estimation, is one of the great tenor players of jazz. We worked together in several groups while Phil lived in Toronto and he always brought fantastic energy and creativity to the musical setting we were involved in. He is a complete musician – a pianist and composer/arranger as well as a reed player. It would be difficult to over estimate the natural talent and commitment of this artist.” While keeping a busy schedule as a performer and ‘first-call’ studio musician in Toronto scene Phil also found time to travel and perform across North America, Europe, South America, and Asia, including tours with pop music icon Gino Vannelli, trumpet star Ingrid Jensen and with his own groups.
In addition to his success as a performer, both on saxophone and piano, by the early 90s Dwyer began developing his craft as a composer and arranger, studying composition and orchestration with the eminent composer Michael Colgrass. Subsequent to those studies Dwyer’s work was commissioned and recorded by the Gryphon Trio, Roberto Occhipinti, CBC Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Hard Rubber Orchestra, the Art Of Time Ensemble and Duke Trio.A 2010 commission from Mark Fewer and McGill University led to the creation of a major work “Changing Seasons”, a 40 minute concerto for jazz and string orchestras accompanying violin soloist Fewer. His arrangements have been heard on recordings by Guido Basso, Sophie Milman, Molly Johnson, Michael Kaeshammer, Quartetto Gelato, Patricia O’Callahan, and Dione Taylor, among others.
With recording credits including well over 100 commercial releases and hundreds more radio, television, and film sessions, Dwyer is one of the most recorded musicians in Canada. The Juno Awards represent the best in Canadian recordings annually and Phil has been featured as a player, writer, or producer on 9 recordings which have received a Juno Award, and has been a part of another 15 that received nominations. He has also been named best arranger and best saxophonist at the National Jazz Awards on multiple occasions. Early in his career he was awarded the “best soloist” prize at the BBC Big Band competition in Great Britain. He was also awarded the KM Hunter prize in 2001, and has been the recipient of several major grants from the Canada Council. Phil was active in the commercial recording scene in Toronto from 1990-2004, recording hundreds of tracks for major advertising campaigns, as well as TV themes, movie soundtracks, and album sessions.
Dwyer has also been active as an educator since 1989 when, at age 23, he joined the faculty at York University in Toronto, where he remained for 11 years. He has also appeared as a guest lecturer/clinician at University Of Toronto, Humber College, University Of Manitoba, McGill University, Clackamas Community College, Arizona State University, Royal Academy of Music (London) countless high schools across North America, and at some of the leading music academies in Denmark. He has also been a visiting faculty member at the prestigious Banff Centre in 2009/10/11. Since 2005 he has owned and operated the Phil Dwyer Academy Of Musical And Culinary Arts on Vancouver Island, where he has returned in 2004.
In addition to his career in music Dwyer has frequently and passionately advocated for greater awareness of mental health issues. He will also enter his first year of law studies at UNB Fredericton in September of 2014.
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