Obituaries, June 29, 2023

Vance Masters, a former drummer for the Guess Who, died on June 22 at age 77. He'd been receiving critical care following a severe Covid-19 infection.

He was known for touring with the Guess Who in the late 1970s and ’80s.

A biography on his website notes that "a classically trained percussionist, Vance began his professional career in 1963 with The Crescendos, touring Britain and Europe.  Returning to Canada in 1966, he re-entered the local music scene with London Records recording artists, The Fifth. It was in this band that Vance re-connected with Kurt Winter - a relationship that continued until Kurt's death in 1997. 

"The two would go on to form the short-lived, but now legendary, Brother in 1969 with Bill Wallace on bass. Together, the trio wrote many songs recorded by The Guess Who. The band was also responsible for organizing Manitoba's first outdoor festival, The Niverville Pop Festival.

"In 1973, Masters travelled to Los Angeles, once again, to record with Alan Schick, releasing one album that received extensive airplay in Canada. In 1974, Kurt Winter left The Guess Who and joined Vance on stage in Papa Pluto, resurrecting the writing team of Winter/Masters. Burton Cummings left The Guess Who in the mid-1970s to embark on his solo career, and in the summer of 1977, Vance was hired to replace Jim Gordon. He performed with Cummings until early fall when The Guess Who regrouped and Vance became the drummer for the new version of the band." Masters co-wrote such #1 Guess Who hits as Bus Rider and Hand Me Down World. 

Throughout the 1980s, Master played with some of Winnipeg's longest-running groups - The Trigger Brothers, Yogi and Friends, Twister - to name a few.  In 1992, he began a 10-year stint with the country-rock band, Guns 4 Hire. He worked six decades in the music industry prior to retiring.

Sources: Winnipeg Free Press, Artist Website


Robert Black, a noted US bassist, educator and founding member of Bang On A Can All-Stars, died on June 22, at age 67, of cancer.

He enjoyed an international career as a double bassist and electric bassist, touring and collaborating with other musicians, composers and artists, namely as a founding member of Bang on a Can All-Stars, a flexible, amplified ensemble exploring contemporary works across different genres. He also performed with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Ciompi and Miami Quartets and the orchestras of the Monadock and Moab Festivals.

A champion of new music, Black chaired the International Society of Bassists’ composition competition for many years. His solo recordings include Philip Glass: Bass Partita and Poetry (Orange Mountain Music), Possessed, Modern American Bass, The Bass Music of Christian Wolff, Giacinto Scelsi and State of the Bass.

Read more here

Peter Brötzmann, a legend of free jazz, died on June 20, at age 82 The Guardian termed him "a saxophonist whose muscular and emancipated style of performance made him a central figure in European jazz."

By the mid-60s, he was playing in a trio with Peter Kowald and the Swedish drummer Sven-Åke Johansson and crossed paths with bold musicians including Carla Bley and Cecil Taylor. He rejected standard rhythmic and melodic modes to explore free jazz, inspired in part by a desire to express something new after the second world war. His first release, For Adolphe Sax, was self-released in 1967 and was followed in 1968 by one of the landmark albums of 20th-century free jazz, Machine Gun. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes it as “one of the most significant documents of the European free-jazz underground.”

He would record again with members of this octet, such as the British saxophonist Evan Parker. Brötzmann and Machine Gun’s drummer, Han Bennink, recorded another cherished LP, 1977’s Schwarzwaldfahrt, in the Black Forest. It features Brötzmann techniques such as duetting with birds and playing his saxophone submerged in a river.

The Guardian observed that "his reputation for ferocity made him a natural partner in Last Exit, a 1980s jazz supergroup with Sonny Sharrock, Ronald Shannon Jackson and Bill Laswell that played punk, funk and noise rock. Brötzmann recorded more than 50 albums under his name – many featuring artwork he painted or created himself – and collaborated with key free-jazz musicians, including Derek Bailey and Anthony Braxton, plus avant-garde figures such as Keiji Haino."  His fans included fellow saxophonist and former US president Bill Clinton, who described Brötzmann as “one of the greatest.”

Read more here 

John Waddington, guitarist of UK post-punk band The Pop Group, died on June 20, aged 63. No cause of death has been reported.

"An influential musician, and an integral member of the group, John contributed to some of the band’s most iconic recordings. His energy and friendship will be sorely missed," the band wrote in tribute

Waddington played on Y and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?, the first two albums by The Pop Group, and later joined Maximum Joy for their debut album Station MXJY. He later played on records by Judy Nylon and by On-U Sound-affiliated projects including New Age Steppers and African Head Charge.

Waddington founded The Pop Group in Bristol in 1977 alongside the late Mark Stewart,  with Gareth Sager, Simon Underwood and Bruce Smith. The group disbanded in 1980 with a final performance at rally for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). Back in April, the band’s frontman Stewart passed away aged 62. 

Read more in The NME here.


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