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Charlie Biddle Dies

Charlie Biddle, a bassist and concert promoter credited with popularizing jazz in Quebec, died Tues., Feb. 4 of cancer. He was 76.

Born in Philadelphia in 1926, Biddle fought for in the army during World War II and later, on the G.I. Bill, attended Temple University, where he studied music. In 1948 he moved to Montreal, which at the time had a thriving music scene and was home to pianist Oscar Peterson, a longtime friend of Biddle.

In a way Biddle was in charge of the jazz scene in Montreal and all of Quebec. Jazz was not a large part of the province’s culture in the 1950s. But by renting out clubs in the area and bringing in musicians like Johnny Hodges, Art Tatum, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Bill Evans, Art Farmer and Thad Jones for concerts, Biddle helped make jazz more popular in the region. Biddle could also be credited with the birth of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In 1979 the bassist organized a three-day jazz festival (against the advice of many Quebec concert promoters) that proved there was Canadian demand for such an event. The now-popular Montreal fest began the next year.

As a bassist, Biddle stuck to the straightahead style. He played regularly in clubs but rarely traveled outside of Quebec. His sole studio recording as a leader, In Good Company (Justin Time), was released in 1996. Two other Justin Time releases, Oliver Jones et Charlie Biddle and At Biddle’s Jazz & Ribs feature Biddle in a live context.

Biddle became a Canadian citizen in 2000, but retained his American citizenship. Earlier this year, he was given one of Canada’s highest honors when he was invested as a member of the Order of Canada. He also received Prix Calixa-Lavallee from the Quebec’s St. Jean Baptiste Society for his contributions to music.

Biddle is survived by his wife, Contance, and four children.

Originally Published