John Norris, Founder of Coda Magazine in Canada, Dies

Toronto-based magazine publisher/editor also co-founded Sackville Recordings

John Norris, founder of Coda Magazine, a noted jazz publication based in Canada, and co-founder with Bill Smith of Sackville Recordings, died January 31, 2010 of a heart condition. He was 76 years old.

Norris was born in England in 1934. He worked as a clerk in London, but also ran a jazz club. After moving to Canada, he eventually settled in Toronto, where he ran the Traditional Jazz Club of Toronto. He also opened Galleon, a jazz club, and promoted concerts around Toronto.

A fixture on the Toronto jazz scene, Norris founded Coda in 1962. In his “Statement of Policy,” Norris explained his vision for the magazine: “We will endeavor to comment, report and inform without fear or favor and always try to get to the truth of the matter.” Although the magazine emphasized Canadian artists, its range of coverage included jazz from all over the world. From 1962 through 1968, Norris also managed the jazz department of the Sam the Man Record Store in Toronto. He eventually was succeeded as editor of Coda by saxophonist Bill Smith who took over in 1976.

In 1968 Norris and Smith launched Sackville Recordings, a label dedicated to Canadian artists, as well as traditional and avant-garde jazz artists from U.S. and beyond. Among the artists who recorded for Sackville were Ralph Sutton, Jim Galloway, George Masso, Jay McShann, Anthony Braxton and many others.

Early in his career, Norris was also a familiar presence as a jazz broadcaster on Canadian radio. Noted Canadian radio broadcaster Ross Porter said about Norris: “John’s contribution to jazz in this country and for that matter around the world was substantial. John was a man of impeccable taste when it came to jazz. He avoided the pitfalls of musical politics and focused on releasing music he enjoyed which was always good, innovative jazz. He will be missed.”

Norris is survived by his wife, Sandy.