The Canadian writer Christopher Loudon, whose features, columns, and reviews appeared regularly in JazzTimes for nearly 20 years, died on Sunday, May 17 in his hometown of Toronto. The cause of death was complications from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 62.
Born on July 17, 1957 in Toronto, Loudon was the youngest of four children. According to his sister Kathryn Durant, he was a precocious child, doted on by both his parents and his siblings. She described their household as filled with music: lots of big bands, crooners, and musicals—all of which he would go on to cover during more than three decades as a journalist and critic for various publications. An avid reader and writer from the very beginning, Loudon reveled in the world of books throughout his life. Durant joked that she wasn’t sure how Barnes & Noble and Amazon would survive after her brother’s passing.
Loudon received his undergraduate degree in English from the University of Toronto and afterward attended Harvard University to get a postgraduate certificate in publishing procedures. He spent most of his 35-year career working in the publishing field, as an editor as well as a writer, most often with a focus on arts and entertainment. Among the Toronto-based publications he worked for were Hello! Canada, Marketing, WalMart Live Better, M Magazine, and The Reporter.
Recommended by the noted author James Gavin, Loudon began writing for JazzTimes in 2001, taking over the Vox review column that focused on jazz vocal albums. He soon expanded to features and profiles of artists, usually vocalists. His larger pieces for JazzTimes included cover stories on Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, and Jamie Cullum. Later, frustrated that he couldn’t cover as many artists in Vox as he thought deserving, Loudon created an online column called “Hearing Voices,” in which he profiled or interviewed mostly emerging or underrecognized artists.
Over the years, Loudon worked with a succession of editors at JazzTimes. In his editor’s note for the December 2017 issue announcing Loudon’s departure as the Vox columnist, Evan Haga—JazzTimes‘ editor from 2007 to 2018—recounted how, when the magazine was in transition and between owners in 2009, Loudon reached out to him to ask how he was doing and whether there was anything that he (Loudon) could do to help. That one simple act of generosity was an accurate reflection of his character.
In subsequent years, Loudon frequently assisted with proofreading and copy-editing for the magazine. “Chris was an extremely rare combination of ability and modesty—a very gifted man who was also easygoing and gracious,” Haga said. “He was a fantastic critic who’d held down these high-profile management gigs in publishing, yet he was never too proud to help out on the editorial side with the unglamorous tasks that go into assembling a magazine. I think this was for two reasons: one, he had a profound enthusiasm for jazz music and culture; and two, he was simply a wonderful person.”
Still, it was Loudon’s contribution as a writer about singers and songs that looms largest for so many in the jazz community. During his tenure with JazzTimes, he brought both passion and knowledge to his coverage of hundreds of artists. “Other than Will Friedwald and James Gavin, his colleagues whose work he reveres, no one knows more about jazz singers, or appreciates them with more unflagging enthusiasm, than Chris,” Haga wrote in 2017. “Even more enlightening, few critics know as much about the songs these singers curate. Indeed, for decades he’s been an ardent defender of the geniuses who crafted the Great American Songbook and of the savvy tunesmiths who continue to shape the vocal-jazz canon—their lyrical and musical intentions, and the slight yet profound inflections deployed by their greatest interpreters.”
Despite such accolades, Loudon’s sister remembers him as an extraordinarily modest man, who rarely talked about the famous people he had interviewed or met in his work and travels. However, Durant said that her brother was proud of being one of the few journalists to whom Doris Day gave an interview in her later years. Throughout his writing career, Loudon always felt that the artist rather than the writer should be the focus of any profile or interview.
Loudon also served as an associate creative director with Toronto’s Luminato Festival, curated by performing arts impresario Jorn Weisbrodt, who notably produced a Joni Mitchell tribute concert in 2013 at which the legendary singer/songwriter herself performed a rare four-song set.
For much of his life, Loudon was a dedicated volunteer with Casey House in Toronto, a hospital serving people with HIV/AIDS. He later supported the Hospice Georgian Triangle in Collingwood, Ontario, where his brother-in-law Bob Durant had stayed before his death from prostate cancer in 2018.
Loudon is survived by his husband Adrian Boudreault, brother John Loudon, sister Kathryn Durant, several nieces, and a nephew. Largely because of the COVID-19 crisis, there was no memorial service, but a celebration of Loudon’s life will happen later this year. If anyone from the jazz and arts community would like to share their thoughts or remembrances about Loudon with his family, they may write to [email protected] The family asks that any donations in his name be made to the ALS Society of Canada.