By RON FANFAIR
Washington Savage, considered one of Canada’s brightest young musical talents, was laid to rest last weekend in Toronto.
The British-born pianist, composer and arranger, whose musical career spanned nearly 25 years and included jazz, rock, blues and contemporary, died of heart-related complications. He was 46.
His musical talent was evident at a young age when singer, Salome Bey, selected the then 16-year-old to be her arranger for Indigo, a blues and jazz cabaret show on the history of Black music that won a Dora Mavor Moore award for outstanding performance. He performed for Bey for nearly two decades and worked with many talented Canadian singers, including Paul Anka, Deborah Cox and Liberty Silver.
“I met him through Salome and her husband Howard (Matthews),” recalled renowned drummer, Archie Alleyne. “Though we played just once together at a private engagement, it was evident that he was a well schooled musician and someone who was extremely talented.”
Savage founded two bands – Age of Reason and Blaxam – and was a member of Molly Johnson’s rock Band, The Infidels, and the Jeff Healey Band, both of which captured Juno awards in 1991 and 1992 respectively.
He was the musical director for the gospel play, Mama, I Want to Sing, the longest-running Black off-Broadway musical in American history; the Harry Jerome awards; the defunct Brandon St. Choir and the Suite Life Arts for Youth program which is run out of St. Christopher House.
“Washington was with us for nearly two and a half years and he gave us his time willingly for next to nothing,” Suite Life Arts for Youth founder and artistic director, Denese Matthews, told Share. “Though he was busy and always on the run, he would come in every Monday evening and spend almost three hours with the young people who enjoyed working with him. He was very community-minded and that is something a lot of people didn’t know about him.”
In 2007, Savage released his solo piano CD – Savage Piano Lounge – which included two originals, ‘Tyrant Saint Blues’ and ‘One of Three’.