||Below, please find the sad message from Brian Towers:
Very bad news, I am afraid. Cliff Bastien died today, or possibly last night, at his home. He did not show up for the regular Saturday matinee gig at Grossman's with his "Happy Pals". Some of the guys finally went to look for him at his apartment. His TV was on but there was no answer to the doorbell. Finally Jack King broke a window and they found Cliff dead in his armchair chair, he had been watching the TV. Evidentally a heart attack.
I cannot imagine the Toronto Traditional jazz scene without Cliff Bastien and his raw, emotional New Orleans style jazz. He was probably the most popular and influential figure on the Torontotraditional jazz scene. He taught many others to play their instruments in the style and introduced countless thousands of people to the joys of New Orleans traditional jazz.
He had been playing at Grossman's Tavern since 1968, sometime on drums or banjo but mostly on trumpet - that is some 35 years! Cliff stayed rigidly with his brand of jazz, which loosely followed the style of the "Kid Thomas jazzband" from New Orleans. He was always hugely entertaining - he lived for his music.
Last November he had returned from a triumphant Scandinavian tour with the Danish/Swedish band "New Orleans Delight". His old friend from Canada and England, George Berry, also guested on tenor sax. When I was with him last Wednesday he told me he had a whale of a time and showed me the photos and press cuttings. He was surprised that some folk even travelled from England to Denmark, just to hear him.
I was one of the last of the local jazz musicians to see Cliff. I had been to his workplace on Wednesday. We had put a band together for New Orleans and we discussed the tunes we were going to play during the French Quarter Festival, in April. He was really looking forward to it. He was fine, enthusiastic and seemingly well, as usual.
He played the recording which New Orleans Delight" had sent to him for his approval. They wanted to release it on a CD. He was pleased with it and asked my opinion. To me it sounded first rate.
Jan and I are desolate. We went along to Grossman's, after our own gig and Jan and I played some hymns with the "Happy Pals" A sadder and more emotional scene I have rarely seen.
Message from Rasha El Sissi:
Cliff "Kid" Bastien, died February 8, 2003
Born in London, England's East End in 1937, Kid Bastien (born Clifford J. Bastin) immigrated to Canada in 1962 after a stint in New Orleans. There, at the age of 19, he heard "Kid" Thomas Valentine in concert at the Westwego Firemans' Hall and was entranced by Kid Thomas' style of playing New Orleans jazz. This young Eastender sought out Kid Thomas and found him in an area of town where, at that time, you wouldn't have seen a white man on the street. After that first long visit, Kid Bastien treated Kid Thomas as his mentor and thereafter dedicated his life to this authentic style of jazz. Kid Bastien was considered a purist and once said, "Had I never heard that music, I wouldn't have become a musician. I wouldn't play anything else." He stayed in touch with his musical roots through an annual trek to New Orleans at festival time.
Kid Bastien started the New Orleans jazz scene in Toronto 40 years ago. When he first arrived, he could not find any like-minded musicians. In contrast, at that time in London, England there were over two hundred New Orleans jazz clubs. He placed a classified ad in the local paper. The six or seven musicians - mostly British -- who responded became his life-long friends and fellow musicians on the Toronto New Orleans jazz scene. At first they just jammed in a church basement in the Beaches. Later, they formed a band and played in the Yorkville area, sometimes charging twenty-five cents for admission and going home with fifty cents each. But Kid said he would have played for free. That was his motto because he loved the music, loved playing the music and loved to make people love the music.
Kid Bastien was an institution in Toronto and he was called a legend and a national treasure in the authentic old New Orleans jazz form. Beginning in 1968, Kid played at Grossman's Tavern, at Spadina and College, every week. Even after he moved his band to Grossman's, his friend Gordon Lightfoot continued to call him "the mayor of Yorkville". A visit to Grossman's to hear him play on a Saturday afternoon became a must for visiting jazz fans and artists, such as Rex Harrison and Woody Allen. Allen, of course, like many others, pulled out his clarinet and joined the band. Despite changes in ownership, décor and clientele, Kid Bastien and his band continued to play at Grossman's and he has permanently left his mark on this Toronto landmark.
Kid Bastien taught dozens of people how to play in the old New Orleans style, including the members of his last band, the Happy Pals. He would also teach anyone how to play an instrument - gratis - if they showed any interest. He was most accomplished at the trumpet, but could also play almost anything else in the New Orleans genre, including banjo, piano, trombone and drums. He taught himself how to play by listening to the cords of recorded songs, only learning how to read music in the last few years of his life. He also tirelessly searched for old songs, some of which were in French and Creole, to add to his treasure of tunes.
Although he made rare appearances outside of Toronto, his following is world wide -- Europe, Japan, Australia and, of course, New Orleans. Last November, he finally accepted an invitation to tour Denmark and Sweden where he played eleven concerts in two weeks. Many old friends from England showed up. It was a major event.
Cliff Bastin also was an accomplished commercial artist leaving his mark on the "pub scene" with beautiful hand crafted signs, wood work and acid-etched glass, again rendered in the traditional English style. His work can be found throughout Toronto, across Ontario, in other parts of North America, including Quebec, British Columbia and California, and in parts of Europe.
Cliff will be deeply missed by all of his fans, his many friends and the international traditional New Orleans jazz scene. His is survived by two sisters in England, his adoptive daughter Rasha El Sissi and his granddaughter Soraya Sutton.
His funeral is on Friday, February 14 in Toronto.
Cliff's wish is to be buried in New Orleans.
Photo taken by Göran Magnusson, Denmark December 2002.
"As we remember Cliff!"
Cliff "Kid" Bastien's funeral will be held on Friday February 14th at 2.00 p.m.
at the BEDFORD FUNERAL CHAPEL at 159 Eglinton Ave. W. Phone: (416) 489-8733
Cliff's Marching Band, the Magnolia Brass Band, will play at 1.30 p.m. under the direction of Patrick Tevlin and Joe Van Rossem.
Visitation privilages are available for Thursday between 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.
Reception for close friends will be at Noonie's home.
Jazz by the "Happy Pals" will take place at Grossman's Tavern on Friday evening, with lots of guests, as well as the usual
Saturday afternoon matinee session, which is expected to go into the evening.
Mail from Brian Towers 16.2.2003:
The "Happy Pals" will carry on the Grossman's tradition, have no fear. Last Friday and Saturday nights the place was jammed wall to wall and lots of good jazz played by too manydifferent musicians to mention.
The Magnolia Brass Band, at the funeral, played beautifully and were close to perfect! I am certain the "Kid" would have been well pleased with his band's performance, as he lay there in his coffin, his lonely trumpet resting on top.
There was a massive attendance of friends and fans. Many people had to stand. Lots of press coverage. The television cameras filmed the brass band and Grossman's Tavern. There are many photographs on our good friend John Grimley's web site. Worth taking a look, the URL is http://groups.msn.com/TorontoJazz