Nova Scotia Journal

Don Palmer, of Nova Scotia musicians, has died at the age of 82

Nova Scotia musicians

Key Takeaways:

  • Palmer was born in Sydney but spent decades in New York before returning to New South Wales to teach jazz.
  • Don Palmer, a Canadian jazz legend who inspired and mentored generations of Nova Scotia musicians, has passed away.
  • He was 82 years old.

Palmer, born in Sydney, died on Friday at a hospital in Toronto after a brief illness.

Palmer, a saxophonist, and flutist by trade, was best known for his jazz trio Alive and Well with Jerry Granelli and Skip Beckwith and his collaborations with Latin jazz musician Tito Puente and countless other artists, bands, and orchestras over the years.

Palmer’s daughter, Leanna Palmer, said her father was best known for being a generous and kind teacher, despite his success in the industry.

“When you hear people talk about his impact, of course, his music is important, but he had such an impact on his students as people because he just wanted to share that love of music, but also to cultivate that love in others.”

a jazz legend who mentored generations of Nova Scotia; Image from CBC News

As a young man, Palmer was a clarinettist in the Royal Canadian Artillery Band in Halifax, attended the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, and frequently played alto saxophone at a jazz club on Barrington Street.

His love of jazz led him to New York in 1956 when legends like John Coltrane and Miles Davis were performing, and he studied under several renowned musicians, including Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz, during his time there.

“He just kind of absorbed it all, and it came out in his playing,” said Jeff Reilly, a music producer, and Palmer’s longtime friend. “He was completely devoted to music.”

Palmer’s style, according to Reilly, was influenced by his teachers’ fast and light, energetic playing, but he made it his own more distinct and rhythmically aggressive.

Reilly and Leanna both mentioned Van McKoy’s 1970s disco hit The Hustle as one of Palmer’s more popular pieces. Palmer was a multi-instrumentalist working as a freelance studio musician at the time, and he was asked to play a line with his flute during one recording session.

Source: CBC News

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