Jim Galloway Remembered

Jim Galloway was a favorite in West Texas, and in his adopted home of Toronto. Born in Scotland and moving to Canada in 1964, Jim toured as leader of several groups, including Jazz Canada and his seventeen-piece Wee Big Band. Although Jim played alto, tenor and baritone, his main love was the curved soprano. He created a place for soprano saxophone in the contemporary landscape, and was immediately recognizable. He recorded albums with Buddy Tate, Jay McShann, Don Thompson, Ed Bickert, Neil Swainson, Doc Cheatham and a host of others. Jim Galloway performed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington in 1991 and in 1993, and was the subject of a half hour CBC television profile about his life and music. He visited West Texas numerous times.

Jim wrote the following piece back in 2012, and we included most of it because he fondly remembers Odessa and Midland. We are sad to report that this was written after Jim’s final visit to Odessa and Midland, and due to ill health, he was never able to return. He died on December 30, 2014.

(This audio feature from KXWT features Jim playing live in West Texas in 2003.)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles


Galloway-Portrait-87

Last month i wrote about three cities, New Orleans, Vienna and London. This month I’ll add two more, Norwich in England and Odessa, Texas, as different as chalk and cheese except for one thing they have in common: a Jazz Party.

Around the 5th century, Anglo Saxons had a settlement on the site of present-day Norwich. By the 11th century, Norwich was the largest city in England after London. This year it was announced that Norwich would become England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. It is also home to the Norwich Jazz Party which was held on the first weekend of May and featured a line-up of prominent mainstream jazz musicians, including Harry Allen, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Rossano Sportiello and Warren Vaché.

One of the welcome aspects of the jazz party is that musicians can make suggestions about what they would like to do. For example, Alan Barnes, a wonderful British reed player, presented a set of Ellington compositions arranged for 14 musicians; Ken Peplowski gave us a program of Benny Carter’s music, arranged for four reeds and rhythm; trumpeter Enrico Tomasso organised a tribute to Billy Butterfield; and I acknowledged the music of a lesser-known trumpeter, Al Fairweather, with a set of his original compositions. All of that plus the usual casual jam sessions made for a very special three days of jazz.

Galloway-Alden-87By contrast, Odessa, Texas was founded in 1881 as a water stop and cattle shipping point. Right beside it is Midland — with an airport separating the two towns — originally founded as the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881. The discovery of oil in the early 1920s transformed the area and Odessa was a boom town. Things turned sour when the price of oil didn’t justify keeping the rigs going and the area fell on hard times.

But that has all changed with the price of oil now around $100 a barrel, bringing with it wealth and a major influx of workers. It has also brought with it a huge shortage of accommodation, so serious that there are even some workers making very good money but sleeping in their cars or trucks! No amount of money can pay for housing that doesn’t exist.

However, for some jazz musicians the raison d’etre for Odessa/Midland is a Jazz Party. The First Annual Odessa Jazz Party was held in 1967. Then in 1977 a group of Midland jazz enthusiasts formed the Midland Jazz Association and their Jazz Classic was born. In 1998 the two jazz parties merged under the umbrella of the West Texas Jazz Society and this year marks the 46th Annual Jazz Party. Held in May, it is now the longest-running jazz party in the United States and this year featured among others — yes, Harry Allen, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Rossano Sportiello and Warren Vaché, as well as your resident scribe. Over the years they have presented a veritable Who’s Who of jazz musicians — Vic Dickenson, Herb Ellis, Milt Hinton, Flip Phillips, Ralph Sutton, Joe Venuti, Teddy Wilson, Kai Winding, and on and on.

Incidentally, film buffs might be interested to know that part of the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning film No Country For Old Men is set in Odessa. Midland/Odessa is also the home of the Commemorative Air Force, formerly called the Confederate Air Force until it was decided that the word Confederate was politically incorrect. Its home used to be in Harlingen, Texas, and I remember one year when I was playing at the Jazz Party, a couple of friends from Toronto, Joy and Billy Ray Blackwood, talked me into going off to the annual C.A.F. air show, after the party. So we took off, literally, for Harlingen and the air show. Well, as a certain Scottish poet wrote, “The best laid schemes … gang aft agley,” — come unstuck — for when we got there the air show had already started and we couldn’t land! So we saw fragments of the air show, but from above! (I did get to see the planes on the ground another time, and it really is an impressive collection of WW2 aircraft, mostly American, but also R.A.F., Japanese and German Luftwaffe craft. And you can find them in Midland/Odessa — as well as a great jazz party.

So there you have it: two somewhat unlikely places 5,000 miles apart in which to find great jazz once a year.

Excerpted from Jim Galloway
Beat Columns / Jazz Notes / 30 May 2012

West Texas Jazz Party 51 – May 19-21, 2017