An important voice in jazz was stilled when John Norris died on January 31.
Born in Surrey, England, in 1934 he emigrated to Canada in the mid-50s, first to Montreal where he operated the Montreal Traditional Jazz Society from 1956 to 1957 before moving to Toronto where soon became involved with the Traditional Jazz Club of Toronto. In 1958 Coda magazine was established with co-founder, Bill Smith, followed ten years later by Sackville Records. Both became recognized as models of integrity and honesty.
He was an authority on jazz and a respected critic, writer, broadcaster and promoter who never once compromised his opinions and values. As well as writing regularly for Coda, he contributed over the years to many of the other leading music publications – Jazz Journal, Melody Maker, Downbeat and International Musician – wrote a jazz history series for radio and for more than twenty years taught a jazz history course at the University of Toronto.
An unassuming man, but unshakable in his conviction, not gregarious but comfortable among his friends, he had the respect and admiration of all the musicians who recorded for the Sackville label: artists ranging in styles from Willie "The Lion" Smith to Anthony Braxton. The label, from its humble beginnings, established itself as perhaps the world's leading independent record company.
Jazz has lost a great friend, and a true supporter of the music and the artists who perform it.