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Gagnon, Lee

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Origin: Amqui, Gaspé, Québec

Lee Gagnon. Tenor and alto saxophonist, flutist, arranger, composer, b Amqui, on the Gaspé Peninsula, south of Matane, Que, of US parents, 2 Sep 1934. His teachers at the CMM were Joseph Moretti (clarinet, 1952-6), Arthur Romano, 1954-60), and Rafael Masella (clarinet, 1956-9). He also studied composition 1956-61 with Conrad Letendre (University of Montreal) and Michel Perrault, and flute 1962-6 with Jeanne Baxtresser. After playing saxophone and clarinet 1956-9 with the Royal Canadian Ordnance Band, he began working in Montreal cabaret and nightclub orchestras in 1959.

Gagnon led, in turn, a 10-piece jazz band 1960-6 and a popular jazz quartet (or quintet) 1966-72. The former appeared at the 1962 and 1963 Montreal Jazz festivals and in local clubs. The latter also performed in clubs (including Gagnon's 'Jazztek' at the Café La Bohème), and at Expo 67, on CBC radio (eg, 'Jazz en liberté) and TV, with the MSO, and in 1968 under the auspices of the MACQ on a provincial tour of universities, schools and Cegeps. Gagnon, the pianist Pierre Leduc, and the trumpeter Ron Proby contributed to the smaller group's repertoire.

Concurrently Gagnon was music director 1969-72 for the singer Charles Aznavour's North American appearances, then turned to studio work as an arranger and composer. Besides his jazz works, he wrote music for a ballet (based on Marcel Dubé's Jérémie and premiered in 1973 by Les Ballets-Jazz du Québec), many jingles, and scores for several movies, including the features Chantal en vrac (1968), Seizure (1973), and Pousse mais pousse égal (1975), and some NFB and industrial documentaries. Collaborating with the lyricists Jean Robitaille and Luc Plamondon he wrote songs recorded by France Castel, Emmanuelle, and Ginette Reno. In later years he worked in the USA.
-Edward Farrant



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