Out & About

November 29, 2012

Four-mallet master wields jazz history

PLATTSBURGH — The Montreal Jazz Festival lags behind SUNY Plattsburgh in honoring vibraphonist Warren Chiasson, the featured guest artist at the 2012 Winter Jazz Concert on Friday evening.

Called “one of the six top vibraphonists in the last half century” by the New York Times, Chiasson, a native son of Cape Breton, has yet to perform on one of Montreal’s sultry summer jazz stages.

He has, however, performed at festivals around the world and was in George Shearing’s 1959 outfit at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival.

He has met and played with almost everyone in jazz and brings a rich cache of stories to Dr. Rick Davies’s students in Mambo Combo and Jazz Ensemble.


“It was a wonderful ride being out there and meeting all these great musicians on the road,” Chiasson said. “In those days, you go to places like the London House in Chicago and stay a whole month and get an apartment or condo, and you settled in.”

Across the country in West Hollywood, he and double bassist Wyatt “Bull” Ruther got an apartment at the Chateau Marmont.

“On Sunset (Strip) was Gene Norman’s Crescendo. People were coming in all over the place. We had a large apartment down the road from Sunset Strip, where we were playing. Boris Karloff was coming in the lobby. It was a great time to be alive, and playing music was like a dream come true for me.”

Chiasson was far from his Acadian roots.

“I did grow up with that culture. The first five years of life, French was my first language. I’m the first person to come out of that area to forge a professional career in jazz. In 2006, they brought me in and honored me. I appeared with a big band.”


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