From 1974 to 1986, I was music director of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I was mainly responsible for the Imperial Room, a 400-seat dining room featuring nightly dancing and a cabaret-style stage show. We were considered the last great cabaret in Canada (and the second last in North America, after San Francisco).
I fronted a nine-piece house band, to which we added players as needed. For example when Ella Fitzgerald performed, we needed eighteen musicians; Tony Bennett required an orchestra of twenty-four.
The house band consisted of:Trumpets: Erich Traugott, Bobby Herriot Trombone: Jerry Johnson Saxophones: Harvey Kogen, Jim O’Driscoll Piano: Bruce Harvey Bass: George Kozub Drums: Bruce Philp Band Leader: Howard Cable
Additions to the house band (as required):Trumpets: Sam Noto, Bram Smith Jr., Jeff Reynolds, Al Stanwyck Trombones: Alastair Kay, Rob McConnell, Ron Hughes Saxes: Moe Koffman, Bernie Piltch, Vern Dorge, Jerry Toth Guitar: Andy Krehm, Bill Bridges Percussion: Marty Morrell, Peter Appleyard
During my 13 year tenure, many stars were featured – a new one each week. Our performers included Broadway stars, movie stars, legendary singers of the Big Band\Swing era, television personalities, R&B acts, and more. Almost all of the big names of the 70s and 80s played during that period. Although the list is quite long, over the course of this blog, I will try to write at least something about each of them.
I often get asked the question, “Who was your favourite performer of all of these?” My reply without hesitation is: Ella Fitzgerald. So it is only fitting that my first Royal York performer post will be a fond memory of the great lady of song.