Day 148 - Gavin

Day 148 - Gavin (1st person I approached)

May 28, 2014 - UPDATE: I ran into Lisa from Day 127 today! She hadn't seen the story I posted, so I spent some time with her and read the lovely comments that everyone had left for her. She was very touched and grateful. These are the moments I treasure. Thank you!


I admit that what initially drew me to Gavin was his teeshirt! Gavin was sitting in the sunshine, reading a paper, “just killing time,” he told me. I asked Gavin if he’d chat with me. He put away his paper, and we spent the next 40 minutes talking. Gavin was born in Montreal, Quebec. He has one brother who is five years younger. 

“When we were kids he was too young. I couldn’t have him hanging around me; at 13 you don’t want your eight year old brother hanging out with you and your friends. But we were still close. As we got older, the age gets closer, it doesn’t matter and we’re good friends,” said Gavin. 

“My parents were very liberal. Of course when I was a kid, there were still times that I felt they were unreasonable. We still had guidelines and rules. But when I went to University, and saw how other kids parents where I realized that my parents were actually really cool people. They always let us do what we felt we wanted to. Sometimes they’d let us know that they’d prefer we didn’t do something, but if we talked it through and still wanted to do it, they’d let us. They always encouraged my brother and I to be our own true individual selves,” said Gavin.


His father worked for a large international company that manufactured cables, and the family moved between Montreal and New York numerous times. 

“I went to elementary and high schools in both Montreal and New York. I was kind of a shy kid, so it always took me a while to make new friends. One thing I was aware of was the difference between the American and Canadian education and social studies. In Canada we learned about other countries and the world wars, in part because of our attachments with Europe. In America, it’s only American history that is taught. The Civil War, Paul Revere and all that, which is important of course, but it was insular and bubble-like. Everything else was just considered ‘foreign.’ In Montreal I went to a Protestant school, and a number of kids with other religious upbringings did as well. If you went to a Catholic school, the other option, they would try to convert you. Try converting someone who is Jewish to Catholicism. You just don't do that!” 


Gavin’s father had the family on the move again, this time to Brockville, Ontario. 

“We went to Brockville, knowing it was only going to be for six months. It was like a cameo in my life, and there was something about the 'temporary' that allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I was 15 and had been playing the saxophone and clarinet for a few years and was getting pretty good at it by this time. I’d had a couple of professional gigs and was also interested in theatre. It seemed like I was a big deal to some of the other kids in school. I guess having lived in New York, and being a musician. I remember being at home, and the phone rang. My mother answered and I heard her say ‘Just a minute’ and then she looked at me all shocked, and mouthed “IT’S A GIRL!” For the first time ever in my life I had been asked out to the movies by a girl! Yeah, that was quite the cameo in my life alright. I enjoyed that six months there very much,” said Gavin, grinning from ear to ear. His father had taken a promotion and was moving the family to Vancouver. This was in 1957 (yes, Gavin is 73 years old!). The family settled in the west side of Vancouver and Gavin completed high school. 

“After high school, I went to UBC (University of British Columbia) to get my Bachelor of Arts degree. But they wouldn’t let me study the saxophone in music. For various reasons even though I was able to reference instances of Ravel using the sax in Bolero and other uses. I left UBC after one year and went to study music at the University of San Francisco,” said Gavin. He spent the next three years in San Francisco. "I would come home to Vancouver and see my folks. I started picking up gigs here and there, and also teaching some private lessons. After I graduated from University, I decided that I wanted Vancouver to be my home base."


Gavin spent a number of years honing his musicianship, sitting in as a session player and getting regular work performing. He also spent time teaching music privately. In the years that followed, Gavin would build a solid reputation as an outstanding sax player. He has worked with some big names and international artists like Del Richards, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. 

“Sometimes Del Richards would book five gigs, but only play one of them and I'd get booked for the others. It was a good life, for sure. And like most artists it was still tough at times. Someone suggested the best line of work to supplement an artist's income was to drive a cab. It worked perfectly because you could say what shifts you wanted, and I met many interesting people. I also met some not so nice people. But I never once got robbed or had any real problems with a fare. It also was a great community of people that drove cabs. I wouldn’t do it nowadays, no way,” he said. 


One night in the early 1980’s while at a gig, Gavin was approached by a producer from CBC Radio. 

“He told me he wanted to talk to me about a show for radio. I told him I was pretty busy, but I gave him my card and didn’t think much more about it. But he did contact me. Through him, I was invited to host a weekly radio show broadcast on the CBC called ‘Jazzland.' It suited me well because I have a pretty good in-depth knowledge of jazz and knew a lot of the players across Canada and the US. That ran for three years, and then it got moved to Halifax and the hosting was done by someone on staff. The start of the cuts at CBC Radio,” he said. 


Gavin is retired, having spent all of his working life as a professional musician, music teacher, and part-time cab driver. 

“I was married three times. The most successful of those was the last relationship. We weren’t actually ‘married’ but we were together for 23 years. We’re still very good friends. That was the best relationship I ever had,” Gavin said. I asked if he had any children. 

“My brother has a huge extended family and I’ve got that covered there. No, I decided a long time ago I’d be a better uncle than father.” #notastranger


FOOTNOTE: I had asked Gavin if I found any links about him online, would it be okay to post them. He agreed and I’m thrilled to share a few below. One in particular is to a radio show that Gavin didn’t even mention. For THIRTY years, he has hosted a weekly three hour jazz show on UBC’s CITR radio station (every Monday from 9pm-midnight at 101.9FM). The man is an encyclopedia of music. I found a site with dozens of podcasts (might not work on all systems). Enjoy!


CITR’s The Jazz Show (podcasts) -

OR (if link above doesn't work for you) -


**David Berner TV Show - “The thorny subject of race in America as we see it through the history of America's great musical contribution, Jazz


***Discorder interview -