MONTREAL — Vic Vogel, who began playing the piano by ear at the age of five and rose to become one of Canada's jazz stalwarts, has died. He was 84.
A message on his official Facebook page stated he died Monday in Montreal "beside his true love, his Steinway piano."
His friend, musician Eric Ayotte, said Vogel died after a long illness.
"Montreal has lost a legend, the music world an undisputed master, and I, a friend," Ayotte wrote on Facebook.
During his 70-year career, Vogel shared the stage with many music legends, including Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, Mel Torme, and Slide Hampton.
Vogel also accompanied Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt, Andy Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Michel Legrand, Ann-Margaret, Shirley MacLaine and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
A colourful bandleader, he was also active in pop and occasionally symphony and once said that one of his proudest moments was writing, arranging and conducting music for ceremonies of the 1976 Olympic Games in his Montreal hometown.
Soon after the news broke on Monday, tributes began pouring in from public figures, fans, and fellow musicians, many of whom cited Vogel's outsized influence on Quebec's music scene and on their own careers.
Jazz bassist Michel Donato, a longtime friend, credited Vogel with having "opened his ears" when the two played together in a band some 60 years ago.
"When I was very young, he brought me to his home and played me some stuff on the piano, with some rather special harmonies, and it sparked something in me," the 77-year-old said in a phone interview.
"He was the first who made me realize I had the right to do that."
He was born Victor Stefan Vogel on Aug. 3, 1935, to Hungarian parents in Montreal and became interested in music after watching his older brother play.
Vogel also taught himself to play trombone, tuba and the vibraphone and figured out how to arrange music.
At age 14, he gave solo performances on TV, and two years later he began occasionally playing the piano and trombone in Montreal nightclubs.
When he was 19, he sought help in piano theory from Oscar Peterson's teacher, but since the instructor was in declining health, Vogel was referred to his colleague Michel Hirvy, who helped him perfect his talent.
After playing in several orchestras, he conducted his first band at a Montreal cabaret in 1960, then toured with the Double Six of Paris and the Radio-Canada orchestra. In 1967, he founded his Le Jazz Big Band.
Vogel, who was a fixture at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, remained loyal to the Quebec music scene and is credited with helping to maintain the popularity of jazz in the province.
He and his Le Jazz Big Band toured with Quebec rockers Offenbach, resulting in their "En fusion" record that won the Felix Award for rock album in 1980.
On Monday, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante paid tribute to "a legend of our city," whom she credited with helping to develop Montreal's music scene and world-renowned jazz fest.
"The name Vic Vogel is associated with a musician who succeeded in each of his appearances to share his passion for music, and jazz in particular," she said in a statement. "My thoughts go to his family, his loved ones and all the fans mourning his loss."
Vogel had several gold and platinum records and was nominated for Juno and Felix awards. He released his first solo album in 1993.
Vogel also wrote, arranged and conducted music for ceremonies at Man and His World in Montreal and the Canada Games in 1985.
He leaves behind many family members including a son and daughter, according to his Facebook page. The family, who asked for privacy, said a memorial will be held in the coming days.
The Canadian Press