Order of Canada- and Juno-award winning jazz guitarist and composer Oliver Gannon has performed with many of the leading Canadian jazz musicians over his nearly sixty-year career, including Fraser MacPherson, Ian McDougall, Renee Rosnes, Miles Black, Bill Coon, Phil Dwyer, Neil Swainson, Terry Clarke, Cory Weeds, Tommy Banks, and others. His quartet had the honour of opening for the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2004. He has performed at many of the major jazz festivals in Europe and North America, and toured the former USSR several times. Gannon has performed with many internationally-acclaimed musicians, including: Rosemary Clooney, Wynton Marsalis, Cleo Laine, Scott Hamilton, Mike LeDonne, Ed Thigpen, Nelson Riddle, Vera Lynn, Michel Legrand, Jake Hanna, George Roberts, and Steve Wallace.
Born in Ireland, Gannon immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada, at age 14. Five years later, while studying engineering at University of Manitoba, he heard a Barney Kessel record - The Poll Winners - which changed his life. Inspired by Kessel's incredible playing, he started to learn the guitar by ear, and before long was playing casual weekend gigs with his father, jazz pianist Joe Gannon. Within a year, he was playing four gigs per week. He decided to quit engineering and enrol at Berklee College of Music in Boston. In Boston, he and bass player Dennis Pratt got a gig playing jazz standards six nights a week. The gig lasted three and a half years, and provided him with enough money for his tuition.
In 1969, after graduating from Berklee, Gannon relocated to Vancouver where he quickly became an in-demand guitarist. At night, he performed in clubs (such as The Cave, The Panorama Roof, and Oil Can Harry's). During the day, he did studio work (such as recording sessions, jingles, CBC and other radio, and television shows).
In 1970, trombonist Ian McDougall invited Oliver to join his jazz-rock fusion sextet, called Pacific Salt. This group of first-call musicians played many large-scale concerts across Canada for the next five years. In 1975, renowned tenor saxophonist Fraser McPherson invited Gannon to join his trio which included celebrated bassist Wyatt Ruther. The group performed many concerts, jazz festival performances, tours (Canada, the US, Europe and the former USSR) and recorded an album which won the Juno for best jazz recording in 1982.
In the 1980s and 90s, Oliver led his own quartet groups with musicians including Renee Rosnes, Al Wold, Miles Black, Phil Dwyer, and Ross Taggart. The Oliver Gannon Quartet (with Miles Black) recorded four albums for the Cellar Live music label. The Easy Sailing record spent ten weeks on the Jazz Week charts.
Gannon was named 'Jazz Guitarist of the Year' by the Canadian Jazz Awards in 2002. In 2017, he was awarded the Order of Canada, one of his country's highest honours. It is a recognition given to those who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in their field of endeavour.
In 1997, Gannon and Vancouver jazz guitarist Bill Coon formed the quartet 'Two Much Guitar' with bassist Darren Radke and Juno-award winning drummer Dave Robbins. The swinging collaboration became a local favourite, selling out venues quickly. The group’s recording, Two Much More!, was selected by CBC as one of the top jazz recordings of 2015, while their Easy Sailing record spent ten weeks on the Jazz Week charts. AllMusic writes that they are, “an imaginative duo who make their instruments sing in amazing new ways.”
Gannon is known for his interpretations of the Great American Song Book, mainstream standards and bebop, as well as for his original compositions. His fluid, swinging approach is rooted in 1950s and '60s bop. Downbeat magazine wrote: “Gannon is to Vancouver what Ed Bickert is to Toronto, a high-water mark in the instrument’s modern tradition.” All About Jazz described “being swept away by the sheer joy of [Gannon’s] hard swinging, yet effortless jazz… [you] end up feeling refreshed, invigorated and full of hope for the world. Gannon is one of those low-key masters from whom the phrases just flow… every note is in its perfect place.”
Oliver was a major contributor to the innovative and influential Band-in-a-Box music software created by his brother, Dr Peter Gannon. Musicians around the world have benefited from Band-in-a-Box for practice and accompaniment since 1990. Oliver worked for Peter's company, PG Music, as producer, performer and developer for 15 years.
Gannon is the widower of Canadian vocalist and bassist Patty Hervey. She had several 1960s hit songs (e.g. Mr Heartache) on major labels and won Top Country Female Vocalist in 1964. She appeared as a featured performer on the Country Hoedown Tommy Hunter variety shows. Patty and Oliver also worked together in a jazz context for many years. They have two children. Gannon resides near the sea in Crescent Beach, BC (forty-five minutes south of Vancouver, BC) where he enjoys walking on the beach, playing piano, sailing, golfing, and visiting with his family. He is a popular clinician at music camps and workshops.
A short bio can be found on the Press Page.
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Oliver pictured above with his brother, Dr Peter Gannon, founder of Band In The Box,
at the ceremony bestowing him with one of the highest honours to achieve, The Order of Canada.