I don’t honestly know when I first saw Ross Taggart play. What I do remember is in 1991 I got to stay with the teaching assistant at the Kelowna Jazz Camp. Ross was the sax instructor and I got to hang with all the teachers. Ross may as well have been John Coltrane because as far as I was concerned he was equally as famous. I was in awe. I was in heaven. Playing frisbee with Ross on the beach in Kelowna. It feels like it was just yesterday.
I also remember when Ross moved to New York, there was an article in the Sun about him. I hung that article up on my bulletin board in my bedroom. I wanted to be just like him. I was so proud of him. I told everyone I was going to go visit him and used to call Ross every few weeks and tell him I’m coming to visit. He always just calmly said ‘great man, it’s be great to have you,’ even though in the inside he likely new it wasn’t gonna happen.
I told Ross I was going to buy a jazz club, I told him I was gonna produce his first record (I was a bit off on that one). I told him everything I was going to do. Not once did ever treat those comments with anything other than encouragement and positivity. I was young and brash and don’t think even I believed I could do the things that I said I was going to do. Maybe Ross knew something about me that I didn’t 🙂 In any event he never doubted me, never squashed any of my hopes and dreams even though they were somewhat unrealistic or seemed to be.
It was often in times of stress about the club or the label or my own playing that I would call Ross for a ‘pick me up.’ We’d have a chat and talk about when Benny Golson was here, or Big G or Charles MacPherson etc. He’d tell a joke, impersonate a few people and I would always feel better after talking with him. He would always put his own struggles aside to be there for a friend.
I found out just how serious Ross’ condition was in early August. We happened to be playing a bunch of gigs together and despite the bad news he had received he played as wonderfully and beautifully as ever. I remember a specific weekend with Jesse Cahill, Ken Lister, myself and trumpeter Jim Rotondi where Ross was really dealin’ He sounded so inspired! Even though I couldn’t fathom how quickly his condition would progress, something told me that I needed to say some things to him. I said everything I needed to say to him including how much I loved him and how much joy and life he brought to my music and how much he meant to me as a friend. I also made sure he knew what he had contributed to the Vancouver jazz scene and the Canadian jazz scene. I think he actually realized in our talk how beloved he actually was.
When I think Ross I can only smile and laugh because that’s what I did whenever I was around him. I am of course sad that Ross is gone but am happy that he is no longer in pain. I’m pretty sure when Ross reached his final destination the first 2 people he looked up Chris Nelson and Linton Garner. The three of them are likely up there having a great time smiling, laughing and telling stories.
I love you Roscoe and it is my intent to never go a day without acknowledging in some small way what you did for me and for my music. I believe without a doubt that my accomplishments in the jazz business would’ve been much more unlikely if you weren’t in my corner. I am eternally greatful for all the opportunities I had to play music with you. The tours, the recordings, the hangs. Unforgettable.
You will never be forgotten.