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Canadian Heritage

Mike Downes


MIKE DOWNES (bassist, trombonist, arranger, composer, educator) was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In 1990, he moved to Toronto where he has lived and worked ever since, as one of the most sought-after bassists in the country. His work with singer Molly Johnson has earned him international critical acclaim as both a bassist and composer, and his outstanding performance skills have thrilled audiences around the world when he toured throughout North America, in England, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Iceland, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico.

Downes began playing bass at the age of eight, encouraged by his father who was also a bass-player. He also played and studied trombone and piano during the early years in Winnipeg where his career began. After graduating from high school, he received a scholarship to study bass and trombone at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He later completed a degree in music at McGill University in Montreal, while balancing a busy professional playing career with his studies. After graduating, he was awarded a Canada Council Grant to study with bassists Dave Holland and John Clayton.

Mike Downes has performed with the top musicians in Canada, including Oliver Jones, Diana Krall, Ed Bickert, Ranee Lee, PJ Perry, Renee Rosnes, Guido Basso, Don Thompson, Kirk MacDonald, Lorne Lofsky, Terry Clarke, and Pat LaBarbera. He is in regular demand to perform and record with visiting jazz artists including Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Peter Erskine, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Chris Potter, Paquito D'Rivera, Dave Liebman, Curtis Fuller, Lew Tabackin, Gary Bartz, Phil Woods and many others. His debut solo recording, Forces, has received wide acclaim. It was followed more recently with his Mike Downes Trio’s recording, The Winds of Change, which also featured the talents of David Restivo on piano and Ted Warren on drums.

He is the author of The Jazz Bass Line Book (Advance Music of Germany), and is the head of the bass department at Humber College in Toronto where he instructs in Bass, Master Classes, Advanced Jazz History, and Performance Practice.

In 2013, Downes released Ripple Effect on Addo Records. The recording features mostly a trio setting with pianist Robi Botos and drummer Ethan Ardelli, with guitarist Ted Quinlan guesting on one track.

Mike's group the Parallel Streams Ensemble released In the Current in early 2014 on Addo Records. This 11-piece group features Colleen Allen, Kelly Jefferson, Shirantha Beddage, saxophones; Jonathan Challoner trumpet / flugelhorn; James MacDonald, French horn; Kelsley Grant, trombone;  Jay Burr, tuba; Brian Dickinson, keyboards; Ted Quinlan, guitar; and Mark Kelso, drums. The music draws inspiration from "third stream" music, where artists such as Gil Evans, Miles Davis, Gunther Schuller and others combined elements of Western art music with jazz in the 1950s. Mike says this music, "emanates from all the experiences in my life and from the many tributaries that have converged into the collective stream of music."


Recipient of Juno Award nominations for Ranee Lee’s Dark Divas and Maple Groove, Lorne Lofsky’s Bill Please, and Molly Johnson’s Another Day.
2014 - JUNO award for 'Traditional Jazz Album' for Ripple Effect