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Norman Marshall Villeneuve

Norman Marshall Villeneuve

Norman Marshall Villeneuve (drummer) was born May 29, 1938 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Villeneuve grew up in the St. Henri District, home to Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones (Norm’s cousin), Joe Sealy and his good friend, Claude Ranger. He studied piano with Daisy Peterson Sweeney. His natural talent and flair for rhythm led his brother, Charles Griffith, to teach Norm to tap dance at age 8. Charles bought Norm his first drum kit as a surprise for his 16th birthday. With a voracious appetite for jazz he avidly listened to and copied Elvin Jones, Art Taylor, Philly Joe Jones, Shelly Manne and the great Art Blakey, to whom Norm has dedicated his life’s work.

Villeneuve entered the Quebec jazz scene as a drummer at age 14 with a group called the Blue Notes. In the 60s and 70s Norm worked the Montreal clubs, Arcade, Rockhead’s Paradise, Café Momar, High Hat, Café la Bohème and the Black Bottom, where he met such jazz luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones and hung out with his hero Art Blakey who was happy to give the young Villeneuve a few tips.

In 74 Villenueve moved to Toronto and quickly established himself as the man to be seen at the Top O’ the Senator, Royal York, Westbury Hotel, Bourbon Street, George’s Spaghetti House, Bermuda Onion, Pilot, Rex, Chicken Deli, Meyer’s, C’est What, Chalker’s, Whistler’s and Dominion On Queen.

Villeneuve has worked with a virtual legion of greats including Duke Ellington, Junior Mance, Oliver Jones, Norm Amadio, Nelson Symonds, Peter Appleyard, Bill McBirnie, James Galloway, Jay McShann, Anita O’Day, Blossom Dearie, Renee Lee, Maxine Sullivan, Curtis Fuller, Jackie McLean, Ray Draper, Charlie Rouse, Booker Irvin, Dave Young, Julius Watkins, Sheila Jordan, Dinah Christie, Big Joe Miller, “Wild Bill” Davison and Jack McDuff.

In the 90s Oliver Jones invited Villeneuve to tour Brazil, Chile, Columbia and Puerto Rico. With Oliver Jones, he has played concerts for Prime Minister Jean Chretien, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandella. In 1991 Villenueve took his Norman Marshall Villeneuve Jazz Message Sextet on a cross-Canada tour with a grant from the Canadian Arts Council. He has appeared at the Ontario Science Centre, the Hummingbird Centre and Place des Arts in Montreal. He has been a fixture in many jazz festivals, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Huntsville and Port Hope.

Villeneuve won the Félix Award for his work on Oliver Jones’ CD, Just In Time (1998). He appeared in televised performances with Oliver Jones and Dave Young, at Place des Arts (2004 Montreal) and the Liberal Party Farewell to Jean Chretien (2003 ACC Toronto). He appeared in a televised broadcast with Dinah Christie and the Jack Jones Orchestra (1983 Hamilton Place). Villeneuve’s film credits include “It Takes Two” starring Mary Kate and Ashley Olson.

Villenueve continues to work consistently, leading his Norman Marshall Villeneuve’s Jazz Message with such artists as Robi Botos, Mark Eisenman, Andre White, Jeff Johnston, Eric Lagacé, Alex Dean, Artie Roth, Neil Swainson, Ken Fornetran, Eric Boucher, Dave Restivo, Michael Stewart, Mike Downes, Grant Stewart, Kevin Turcott, David Braid, Michael Shand, Bob Brough and Jordan Klapman.

Long recognized as a Canadian jazz icon who emits a spirited passion that is both exciting and contagious to anyone within earshot, this veteran player has a successful career history spanning more than six decades. For over 30 years he has made his home in Toronto where he has earned a reputation as ‘father figure’ to a younger generation of players. He continues the magic, sending out his Jazz Message in Toronto and Montreal with exciting young artists such as Aaron Carter, Robb Cappelletto, Jordan O’Connor Alexander Brown and Al McLean.

Norman Marshall Villeneuve is an active and important leader on the Canadian jazz scene.


Video Clips

Norman Marshall Villeneuve Quintet – Beaches International Jazz Festival
(video: Bill King)

Drum Solo