TRIBUTES to Ken Pickering (1952-2018), Co-Founder and Director of the Vancouver Jazz Festival

Ken Pickering
Photo from @coastaljazz

The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival @coastaljazz put out this sad message on Saturday 11 August on its Twitter account:

“Today is the worst, saddest day. After a short battle with cancer, founding artistic director @ken_pickering passed away peacefully early this AM. We will miss him terribly.”

Since then there have been tributes from far and wide, testifying to the high regard in which Ken was held.

Darcy James Argue described him as “a passionate, knowledgable, and tireless advocate for creative music, and one of the kindest, most generous, most genuine individuals I have ever encountered.” Philippe Ochem, director of Jazzdor in Strasbourg wrote in praise of “my dear colleague and friend”. Pianist Alexander Hawkins wrote: “…not sure what to add, except that I’m sure all of us fortunate enough to have a gig this evening will be playing for you.”

 A broader selection of these tributes has been collected by Peter Hum in a piece for the Ottawa Citizen.

 At LJN we will remember him as someone who was a pleasure to meet, supportive of what we do and an avid reader of our newsletter, often thanking us for bringing things to his attention.

Two friends from the Canadian scene, pianist/composer Marianne Trudel and Heidi Fleming of Fam Group remember him in tributes. First, Marianne Trudel writes (*):

Ken Pickering

Kindness personified

A genuine love of music as the theme that ran through everything he did

A sincere and lasting commitment to those who make it

A dynamo, a beacon, a pillar, a point of reference:

For both the Canadian and the international music scenes

A smile, a sparkle, someone always reliable and always delightful.

Ken Pickering: an example of human nature at its best.

His irreplaceable contribution has been precious and unique:

For musicians, for the public, and for music.

For the survival, for the life of the Music he loved so much.

Thank you so much

We will miss you


Ken was one of the first Canadian broadcasters who gave me the chance to present my music outside Quebec,

A man whose craftsmanship has shaped the whole scene, and whose passion, integrity and commitment were immediately palpable,

A man who recognized and encouraged my work as a pianist and composer for over ten years,

He played an important role in my development.

I’ll be forever grateful.

Goodbye Ken.

For the love of music, then, now and forever…

Marianne Trudel

(*) Marianne Trudel’s tribute was originally written in French:

Ken Pickering 

La bonté sur 2 pattes

Un réel amour de la musique comme leitmotiv

Un engagement sincère et durable envers ses artisans

Un moteur, un phare, un pilier, une référence:

tant pour la scène musicale canadienne qu’internationale

Un sourire, une étincelle, une présence fiable et agréable

Ken Pickering: un exemple de la nature humaine à son meilleur

Son apport incontournable est précieux, unique:

tant pour les musiciens, le public, et la Musique

Pour la survie et la vie de cette Musique qu’il aimait tant.

Merci milles fois

Tu nous manqueras


Ken est un des premiers diffuseurs canadiens à m’avoir donné la chance de présenter ma musique hors Québec,

un artisan important de la scène dont j’ai immédiatement senti la passion, l’intégrité, l’engagement,

un homme qui a reconnu et encouragé mon travail comme pianiste et compositrice pendant plus de 10 ans,

Il a joué un rôle important dans mon essor.

Je lui en serai reconnaissante à jamais.

Au revoir Ken.

Pour l’amour de la musique, toujours et encore…

Marianne Trudel

A remembrance, by Heidi Fleming:

As I scroll though the various social media posts about Ken I realize (no surprise there) that he was as loved in the jazz and improvised/creative music world all over – especially in Europe – as in Canada. He had many friends, both artists and colleagues, in Holland, Norway, Germany, the UK, France and Sweden, as well as across North America and even beyond.

Ken was always the first one you wanted to convince when you wanted to bring an artist on tour here: if he was in, that would often lead the way for his colleagues to buy in as well, thankfully. Ken was the conscience, in a way, of the group. One could accept a decision made by Ken, as it was understood to have been made in all honesty and with the music ultimately in mind. Over the years I was lucky that several bands I proposed were indeed chosen and thus were able to establish footholds or even become celebrated in North America.

Ken loved not only music and musicians, but he loved a good prank, had a wicked sense of humour, and was just a great down-to-earth guy. Ken, you are gone too soon and you will be missed tremendously: you were the glue that held us together! I am just sad that we won’t be following your exploits anymore… reading your informative and informed yet anything-but-dry posts and seeing your smile.

Rest well, you have left us in good hands. Your work here is done.

LINKS: Obituary from the Vancouver Sun
A tribute by Alexander Varty in the Georgia Straight

Categories: News

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