Fraser MacPherson toured the Soviet Union five times. He has won a Juno Award, which is the Canadian equivalent to a Grammy, in 1983 for Best Jazz Recording for his duet with guitarist Oliver Gannon (I Didn't Know About You
). Fraser MacPherson played with Ella, Hines, Bennett and The Duke. Fraser MacPherson put his saxophone down for the last time on Sept. 28, 1993, and those of us in the jazz world are one man down, tonight and forever.
Fraser MacPherson loved Lester Young. He also took to Johnny Hodges, loved his passages, loved his subtleties. Born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, on April 10, 1928, Fraser grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, where he had his Musicians' Union Card by the time he was 16. Vancouver came a calling next in 1948. People knew that they were seeing something special on stage at the Palomar Club and The Cave where in 1951, at the age of 23, he became band leader. Studying in New York in 1956-57 with saxophonist Vincent James Abato and flutist Henry Zlotnick, MacPherson had time to soak in the New York experience. Back in Vancouver he became the first-call studio musician and occasionally played with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Fraser became a star on CBC Radio and on television in the '50s and '60s. He had his own CBC series called "The Pretty Sounds of Jazz" also titled "The Sounds of the Sixties" with a string orchestra. By the time the '70s rolled around it was time for to form his own trio. He recruited guitarist Oliver Gannon and initially Wyatt Ruther on bass. Their first album was a CBC Broadcast Live at the Planetarium which was distributed through McPherson's own label West End. RCA heard this and the album was picked up for distribution and then later re-leased by Concord. This success brought the Trio to the international stage.
The first of five USSR tours started in 1978. This lead to a very major accomplishment in the industry as the trio were the first North American jazz group to be invited back to the USSR to play - to encourage another country, another land to fall in love with jazz. Other tours followed in 1981, 1984 and 1986. The trio also toured Canada and performed at every major Canadian festival including the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1982 and 1984, Edmonton Jazz Festival in 1984 and 1986, and was the main stay at the Vancouver Jazz festival. In 1986 the trio performed in Australia.
In 1987 Fraser MacPherson was made a Member Of The Order Of Canada. The year 1989 rolled around and it was time for one tour of the Soviet Union. By 1992-93 Fraser MacPherson was ill. The summer of 1993 the Pacific Music Industry Association created a music scholarship fund. The board of directors chose one man to name it after: Fraser MacPherson. He has been labeled as British Columbia's greatest musician and cultural ambassador and it was an honor to have this bestowed on him. More accolades followed as he was awarded the Oscar Peterson Trophy in 1993 as well.
Fraser MacPherson passed away from cancer on Sept. 28, 1993. Each year monies are raised through the British Columbia's music industry which is distributed between four to eight scholarships of $2,000 each. Fraser MacPherson was our "maple syrup"; he was our Honey & Spice.