Musician Phil Dwyer has been a force on the international jazz scene for over two decades. A critically acclaimed composer,arranger, and musical director, as well as gifted, intuitive perfomer on both saxophone and piano , Dwyer has performed witheveryone from Aretha Franklin, Ian Tyson, and Gino Vannelli to jazz greats like Red Rodney, Ingrid Jensen, Randy Brecker,Tom Harrell, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, Don Thompson, and many others.
Before returning to his west coast roots on Vancouver Island in 2004, Dwyer spent 15 years as one of Toronto's busiest studio musicians appearing on hundreds of recording sessions, and working as a commercial composer and arranger. He also was a regular performer at Toronto clubs Top O’ The Senator and Montreal Bistro, with Dave Young, Marcus Belgrave, Renee Rosnes, Carol Welsman, Moe Koffman, and many others.
Doubling on tenor sax and piano, Dwyer was a member of the Hugh Fraser Quintet when they won the Alcan Jazz Competition in 1987 and the Juno Award for Looking Up in 1988. A long-time partnership with bassist Dave Young has produced a pair of recordings including 1993 Juno Award-winner, Fables and Dreams. Phil was also arranger, composer, and conductor on Guido Basso's 2003 Juno Award-winning recording, Lost in the Stars. Dwyer has also made three recordings with Robert Occhipinti and was a featured soloist on the bassist's Juno-nominated Yemaya.
Phil has recorded twice with Don Thompson, Forgotten Memories (with Dave Holland, Claude Ranger, and Kenny Wheeler) and the 2006 Juno Award-winner, Ask Me Later. The duo's ongoing, two-decade musical relationship was underlined when Phil was chosen by Thompson to take part in the May 2006 Tribute to Don Thompson along with jazz greats Dave Holland, John Handy,Terry Clarke, and Jim Hall. The new Don Thompson Quartet Dwyer is a frequent collaborator with Kenny Wheeler and has been saxophonist for the British-based jazz star's Canadian performances for the last 15 years. Dwyer also has several ongoing musical projects with New York-based trumpet star Ingrid Jensen, including successful tours of Europe and Mexico, and a mutual interest in community involvement.
One of Dwyer's longest and most important musical relationships is with drummer Alan Jones. They met in New York City in 1985 and played together with the David Friesen Trio, touring from 1987-1990 and recording Other Times, Other Places also featuring Airto and Flora Purim. Recently Phil reunited with Jones, and with bassist Rodney Whitaker onboard, recorded
Let me tell you about my day, a muscular, inspired collection of powerful and playful readings in the saxophone trio format. The composition Let me tell you about my day was originally commissioned by choreographer Kate Alton and the Toronto Arts Council, but is adapted here for saxophone trio. There are several originals by the band, as well as a few “not done too often” standards, including a wonderfully offbeat version of Sonny Rollins’ Airegin. Dwyer and Jones recently recorded again with a New group, the Bridge Quartet, with pianist Darrell Grant and bassist Tom Wakeling. Their cd “Day” is available through Origin Arts.
Dwyer is also enthusiastic to continue his development as a musical director, arranger, composer, and producer. Mentored by studio wizards like Doug Riley, Guido Basso, and Rick Wilkins and a student of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Michael Colgrass, Phil has written for theatre companies, dance groups, and symphonies around the world and received commissions from Mark Fewer, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Art of Time Ensemble, and Duke Trio.
In 2001 Dwyer won the prestigious KM Hunter Award for Land of Sleepless Dreams, a composition he wrote for Amici Chamber Ensemble. That year, he was also featured soloist with Latvia's Liepaja Symphony. Dwyer was commissioned by CBC Radio Drama to write original music and serve as musical director for A Night at the Quinte Hotel, an evening of Al Purdy's poetry starring Gordon Pinsent.
Phil was musical director and composer/arranger for the World Leaders Tribute to Bernardo Bertolucci in Toronto in 2002 and musical director and arranger for the Canadian jazz super-group, Sax Summit's CD and nationally broadcast performances. He was also arranger for A Long Time Ago, a special Kenny Wheeler performance with a chamber orchestra and musical director for Maple Leaf Mojo, a post-Katrina three-hour live broadcast from House of Blues in New Orleans.
After over 15 years in Toronto Phil returned with his family to Vancouver Island in 2004. Since moving to the island Phil has remained busy as a performer and writer, but has also become very involved in the community as a music mentor. He operatesthe Phil Dwyer Academy of Musical and Culinary Arts and acts as a resource to the local school music programs throughout the year. He has also been an active fundraiser for the Bill Dwyer Memorial Scholarship Fund, which each year awards music scholarships to deserving local students.
In 2008 Phil was recognized at the National Jazz Awards with awards for Saxophonist and Arranger Of The Year. Other highlights of the year have been performances in Chile with Dave Young and Mike Murley, composing and performing with thethe Gryphon Trio in Toronto, and jazz club appearances with Robi Botos (Vancouver) and Joe Labarbera (Edmonton). He is currently working on plans for the 2008 PDAMCA and touring and recording plans with Don Thompson, Laila Biali, and Molly Johnson.