An important figure on the Quebec jazz scene, this Montreal-born pianist and composer rose to prominence in the 1960s with his colourful style. A well-travelled and respected accompanist, Vogel has toured with stars from both Europe and the United States. He has also been a familiar presence on the radio and on TV, with dozens of jazz concerts broadcast on Radio-Canada and television appearances as an orchestra leader and arranger. Vic Vogel is credited with helping to revive the big band tradition in La Belle Province. He participated in 34 editions of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, which presented him with the Oscar Peterson Award in 1992 and, in the summer of 2015, a stand-alone Miles Davis Award in recognition of his entire career. He is also a member of the prestigious 24 Legends of the Festival, iconic images which gaze out over jazz fans from high above in the windows of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan.
The son of Hungarian parents, Victor Stefan Vogel was born in Montreal on August 3, 1935. As a child, he played the piano in the family home, and in the 1950s, Vogel studied music theory and analysis with Michel Hirvy. Under Hirvy, the young man was able to develop his natural affinity for composing and arranging-a perfect complement to his musical training.
From 1951 to 1965, Vogel played the Montreal cabaret and hotel circuit with a number of instrumental ensembles. In 1961, he toured as the pianist/accompanist for the Paris-based vocal jazz group Les Double-Six. He was also a regular performer with the Lee Gagnon Jazz Ensemble, and he directed an ensemble of Québec-born jazz musicians during a European tour.
Over the years, Vic Vogel has appeared in a great many radio concerts for Radio-Canada radio as well as worked extensively in television as an orchestra leader and arranger. At Man and His World, he directed an orchestra of 60 musicians accompanying the likes of Paul Anka, Annie Cordy, Jerry Lewis and Ann Margret.
Beginning in 1973, Vogel began directing European radio orchestras during the summer. These same orchestras commissioned him to write original pieces. Vogel went on to compose music for Tony Bennett, Eartha Kitt and Andy Williams, as well as write the orchestrations for the opening ceremony at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. By 1979, the Vic Vogel Big Band, created almost ten years earlier, was giving an impressive number of concerts accompanying such artists as Woody Shaw and the group Offenbach.
The famous Québec rockers and the Vogel band also pooled their talents in the studio, recording an album, En fusion, which captured the 1980 Félix for rock album of the year. In 2005, the two bands once again shared the stage for a series of concerts.
A mainstay at the Festival
Vic Vogel performed at the very first edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 1980, giving the closing concert with his Big Band of 17 musicians. That evening, Vogel and his ensemble played a program of original compositions as well as jazz classics.
Vogel returned to the Festival the following year, and the year after... and with more than 30 stints at the Festival since, he has a place among its most frequent musical guests.
For audiences and for Vogel alike, some editions of the Festival stand out as particularly memorable. The closing concert at the 1986 Festival saw Vogel and his musicians accompany the great Dizzy Gillespie. Two years later, Vogel celebrated the 20th anniversary of his Big Band, and in 1989, as part of the Piano plus series, he took the stage as part of a trio with Dave Turner and Yannick Rieu, two Montreal saxophone players with radically different styles. In 1992, Vic Vogel received the Oscar Peterson Award. Handing the award to him was Oliver Jones.
The indefatigable band leader celebrated his 65th birthday in 1995. To mark the occasion, Vogel opted to share his passion for Cuban music. In 1999, he celebrated 50 years in the music business by taking part in the tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald alongside Karen Young, Jeri Brown and Ranee Lee. In 2001, trumpet great Freddie Hubbard made an appearance with the Vic Vogel Big Band, marking another meeting at the summit for Vogel.
In 2005, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) appointed Vic Vogel to direct the European Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble of young musicians recruited throughout Europe, and in May of that year, the orchestra's performance in Gatineau gave rise to the live album Hommage à Oscar Peterson and to a television documentary. The following year, Vogel released the solo piano album titled Je joue mon piano, which was accompanied by a DVD.
In the autumn of 2007, Vic Vogel opened the Festival des musiques sacrées de Québec, drawing inspiration for the event from the Concert Of Sacred Music given by Duke Ellington in 1966.
As part of the 2008 Festival, Vogel took the stage to present the concept for an album recorded the previous year with the saxophone players from his Jazz Big Band: Jean Fréchette, Dave Turner, Alexandre Côté, Al McLean and André Leroux. He returned to the Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, he received a special Miles-Davis Award for the entire body of his work.