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Canadian Heritage

Herbie Spanier


HERBERT (HERBIE) SPANIER (trumpeter) was born on December 25, 1928 in Cupar, Saskatchewan, Canada. He passed away December 13, 2001 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

He was just 13 years old when he began playing bugle for the local Sea Cadets, the first step on a career path which would lead to his ultimately being recognized as one of the greatest Canadian jazz trumpeters. He was playing in a high school band in Regina when he was first heard by bandleader Paul Perry (P.J.’s father) who invited him to play in his band at the Trianon Ballroom. He was 19 when, influenced by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he began leading his own "Boptet" sextet in Regina.

Spanier's next stop was Chicago, working there for six months from the fall of 1949 until 1950 when he moved to Toronto and began working with be-bop specialists like Bill Goddard, Norm Amadio, and Jack Long, and the biggest band-leaders of the era including Trump Davidson, Benny Winestone, and Benny Louis. By 1953, he was making an impression on the Montreal scene working with Paul Bley and The Montreal Jazz Workshop and establishing a long-standing professional association with Bley. After 1954 he did considerable work in major New York clubs and other U.S. cities, working with Roy Eldridge, Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Jackie McLean, Lee Konita, and other legendary jazz figures, playing everywhere from Birdland to Carnegie Hall.

He settled in Montreal in 1955, remaining there until 1970 as a formidable player in live performances and on dozens of recordings and film sound tracks with other jazz greats. He returned to Toronto in 1972, which was when he first began playing with Phil Nimmons, and leading his own bands for the next 25 years.