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Canadian Heritage

Art Ellefson


ARTHUR (ART) ELLEFSON (saxophonist) was born on April 17, 1932 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. He was 16 years old when he first began playing tenor saxophone after a childhood spent playing the euphonium and trumpet. His professional career first took off playing with Bobby Gimby’s band in Toronto, but he relocated to London, England in 1952, where he became a mainstay playing all the saxophones and clarinet with some of the leading British dance bands of the day including lengthy stints with the Vic Lewis and John Dankworth Orchestras.

He toured North America as a soloist with the Ronnie Ross/Allan Ganley Jazzmakers in 1959, and was also a member of Woody Herman’s and Maynard Ferguson’s British touring bands. He returned to Toronto in 1974 after living in Bermuda for five years, and although much of his life in this country was devoted to community endeavors more than performance, he played tenor sax with Nimmons ‘n’ Nine Plus Six for several years and performed on occasion in Toronto with his own groups until moving to Courtenay, British Columbia in 1988 to teach at Nanaimo’s Malaspina College.

Art Ellefson’s namesake Quartet (Ian McDougall on trombone, pianist Gary Williamson, bassist Dave Piltch) performed in the “Sound of Toronto Jazz” Concert Series at the Ontario Science Centre on November 20. 1978. He was also a member of the Ian McDougall Dectet when they presented a concert in the same series on November 15, 1983.