Content Type

This project was made possible by funding through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy and the Heritage Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Heritage

Ralph Fraser


RALPH FRASER (pianist, organist, vibraphonist, composer, arranger) was born on July 3, 1925 in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada. He moved to Toronto in 1946 to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and having achieved his Associateship Degree by 1947, decided to remain in Toronto. He had met Moe Koffman and other leading musicians while jamming around Toronto, and ultimately got work with Bobby Kinsman’s Band in Peterborough, Ontario when Moe Koffman joined Benny Louis’s band. Koffman and Fraser got back together later in Toronto and took trips to Buffalo to play jazz on Sundays, and once even went to New York together, meeting up and playing with jazz giants Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Gerry Mulligan.

By that time Fraser had learned to play both organ and vibraphone, and joined the Vic Centro Quintet playing vibes. It was then that he began recording for the Canadian Talent Library. Around the same time, he became the pianist in the CBC Jazz Unlimited All Stars and did several broadcasts with them. Throughout a still-active career, he played with some of the biggest names on the Canadian and international jazz scenes -- on stage with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker (Jazz at Massey Hall), Eddie Condon’s Group including Yank Lawson and Bob Wilbur at the Colonial Tavern, Carmen McRae and Joe Williams at the CBC, Bud Freeman at the Chick ‘n’ Deli and Cambridge Hotel, Peanuts Hucko at Bourbon Street, and Henry Cuesta at the Valhalla Inn, as well as many of the great Toronto jazz players including Graham Topping, George Arthur, Hart Wheeler, Gordon Evans, Bob Livingstone, Jerry Toth, Roy Smith, Ed Bickert, and Paul Grosney. He was also pianist-arranger with the famed Moxie Whitney Orchestra which was resident in the Royal York Hotel’s Imperial Room for years.

Ralph Fraser’s versatility is legendary. He is even the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question as the organist who played for years for Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Games, the Toronto Argonauts, and the Toronto Blizzard, and was even the live keyboard player during the early years of the Toronto Blue Jays existence. He joined the Canadian Tribute to Glenn Miller Band in 1992, and is currently the piainist with Jim Galloway’s Wee Big Band.

Fraser was the featured pianist in three “Sound of Toronto Jazz” Concerts at the Ontario Science Centre between 1994 and 2000: with the Hart Wheeler Quartet on November 7, 1994, as a member of the Gord Coupland Quartet on November 2, 1998, and as a solo pianist on February 21, 2000.