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Canadian Heritage

Phil Dwyer


PHILIP RICHARD 'PHIL' DWYER (alto and tenor saxophonist, pianist) was born December 17, 1965 in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. A critically acclaimed composer, arranger, and musical director, as well as gifted perfomer on both saxophone and piano. Dwyer has been a force on the international jazz scene for over two decades as one of the busiest studio musicians and performers on the Toronto club and recording scene for 15 years before returning to his west coast roots on Vancouver Island in 2004. Working from that base, he continues to perform, record, and tour across Canada and internationally.

Dwyer has performed and recorded with most of the biggest names in the entertainment world including Aretha Franklin, Gino Vannelli, Red Rodney, Randy Brecker, Tom Harrell, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, Don Thompson, Dave Young, Marcus Belgrave, Renee Rosnes, Carol Welsman, Moe Koffman, John Handy, Molly Johnson, Doug Riley, Guido Basso, and Rick Wilkins. He is a frequent collaborator with Kenny Wheeler and has been saxophonist for the British-based jazz star's Canadian performances for the last 15 years. He also has several ongoing musical projects with New York-based trumpet star Ingrid Jensen, including successful tours of Europe and Mexico. One of Dwyer's longest and most important musical relationships is with drummer Alan Jones who he first met in New York in 1985, first playing together as part of the David Friesen Trio, and touring and recording with him from 1987 until 1990. Recently Dwyer reunited with Jones to record Let Me Tell You About My Day with bassist Rodney Whitaker.

In 2001, Dwyer was featured soloist with Latvia's Liepaja Symphony, and was commissioned by CBC Radio Drama to write original music and serve as musical director for A Night at the Quinte Hotel, an evening of Al Purdy's poetry starring Gordon Pinsent. He served as musical director and composer/arranger for the World Leaders’ Tribute to Bernardo Bertolucci in Toronto in 2002, and musical director and arranger for the Canadian jazz super-group, Sax Summit's CD and nationally broadcast performances. He was also arranger for A Long Time Ago, a special Kenny Wheeler performance with a chamber orchestra, as well as musical director for Maple Leaf Mojo, a post Hurricane Katrina three-hour live broadcast from House of Blues in New Orleans.

Since his return to the West Coast of Canada in 2004, Phil Dwyer has remained busy as a performer and writer, but has also become deeply involved in the community as a music mentor. He has operated the Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts and acts as a resource to the local school music programs throughout the year. He has also been an active fundraiser for the Bill Dwyer Memorial Scholarship Fund, which each year awards music scholarships to deserving local students.

In 2013, Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson released Look for the Silver Lining, a tenor saxophone / piano duo album. It was nominated for JUNO in 2014.

Phil was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada in December 2013.


1987 – Member of the Hugh Fraser Quintet, doubling on tenor saxophone and piano, when they won the Alcan Jazz Competition
1988 – Member of the Hugh Fraser Quintet when they won the JUNO Award for Looking Up
1993 – JUNO Award for 'Best Jazz Album' to the Dave Young/Phil Dwyer Quartet for Fables and Dreams
2001 – Recipient of the KM Hunter Award for Land of "Sleepless Dreams," a composition he wrote for Amici Chamber Ensemble
2003 – Arranger. composer. and conductor on Guido Basso’s Lost in the Stars when Basso won a JUNO Award
2005 – National Jazz Awards nominee in the 'Arranger of the Year' Category
2005 – Tenor saxophonist and featured soloist on Roberto Occhipinti’s Juno-nominated Yemaya
2006 – National Jazz Awards winner as 'Arranger of the Year'
2006 – Performed on Don Thompson’s Juno Award-winning "Ask Me Later"
2008 – National Jazz Awards winner as ‘Saxophonist of the Year’
2008 – National Jazz Awards winner as ‘Arranger of the Year’
2012 – JUNO Award for 'Contemporary Jazz Album' for Changing Seasons (Phil Dwyer Orchestra featuring Mark Fewer)
2014 – JUNO nomination for 'Traditional Jazz Album' for Look for the Silver Lining (with Don Thompson)