Charlie Biddle: Father of Montreal Jazz Festival


Sign in to view read count
Charlie's most successful accomplishment was organizing Jazz Chez Nous, a 3-day jazz festival in 1979...
Charlie Biddle and his bass fiddle brought Jazz to Montreal and all of Quebec.

Biddle died February 5th and only one city in North America really knows who he was and why he was so important to that city. Charlie as he was known to all was a bassist extraordinaire and jazz club restaurateur for 55 years.

If you went to Montreal, you had to go to the premiere jazz club—Biddle's Jazz & Ribs on Aylmer Street—and hear him play with his trio and have some of the famous barbecue buffalo chicken wings. His trio consisted of Oliver Jones, piano, and Wali Muhammad on drums. On many occasions singer Ranee Lee would come by and blend in with her vibrant lyricism.

After serving his country in WWII and returning home to Philadelphia, he studied music at Temple University on the G.I. Bill. "Racism in Philly," as Biddle stated, expatriated him to Montreal in 1948, and "Mount Royal" became his newly adopted home.

Canada was virgin soil for Jazz and Biddle traveled, played, and planted Jazz seeds in every corner of Quebec. He literally presented Jazz to all of Canada as a musician and later as a promoter. Biddle played with Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, Tadd Dameron, and Lionel Hampton. In 1967, as promoter, he brought John Coltrane, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Johnny Hodges, Art Farmer, Thad Jones, and Tommy Flanagan to Montreal.

Biddle's most successful accomplishment was organizing Jazz Chez Nous, a 3-day Jazz Festival in 1979 that everyone predicted would be a failure. The next year, those who doubted and underestimated him started the Festival de Jazz de Montreal---voted the number one Jazz Festival in North America and the world.

In 1995 Biddle, with his son and three daughters, Charles Jr., Tracy, Sonya, and Stephanie, performed at the festival and were honored as the first family of Canadian Jazz. This past year at the 23rd annual Montreal Jazz Festival, he performed brilliantly with his trio throughout the ten day fest.

Biddle inspired many people who heard him play, including pianist Oliver Jones, who recorded his first album Jazz and Ribs at Biddle's, launching the Justin Time Record label. Director Jonathan Lynn signed Charlie to appear in the movie My Cousin Vinnie and Bruce Willis featured Biddle's in The Jackal.

As Harriet Tubman is legendary for leading slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad, Charlie Biddle liberated Canadians from the confines of traditional music and led them to the promised lands of jazz. And they've never looked back. Surpassing the Montreux, North Sea, Umbria, Antibes, and other Jazz Festivals, Montreal, Quebec, and all of Canada have a black man to thank for bringing and spreading the music of jazz. Charlie Biddle, with his bass fiddle, was a one man band of jazz whose name will forever be synonymous with the Festival de Jazz de Montreal. For this endeavor, he will certainly be enshrined one day in the Jazz Hall of Fame.


More Articles

Read Arthur Blythe, 1940-2017: A Remembrance Profiles Arthur Blythe, 1940-2017: A Remembrance
by Todd S. Jenkins
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Billy Krechmer: A Philadelphia Story Profiles Billy Krechmer: A Philadelphia Story
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: March 15, 2017
Read Dwight Sills: Creating His Own Space Profiles Dwight Sills: Creating His Own Space
by Liz Goodwin
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Fahir Atakoglu: Istanbul Blues" Profiles Fahir Atakoglu: Istanbul Blues
by Duncan Heining
Published: May 3, 2016
Read "The Giant Legacy of Rudy Van Gelder" Profiles The Giant Legacy of Rudy Van Gelder
by Greg Simmons
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "Claude Nobs: We All Came Out To Montreux..." Profiles Claude Nobs: We All Came Out To Montreux...
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 30, 2016
Read "Duane Allman at 70: A Reflection" Profiles Duane Allman at 70: A Reflection
by Alan Bryson
Published: November 5, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!