VIMS Winners

Vernon Isaac Memorial Scholarship

Memorial Celebration Jan.22,2000


Profile by Arthur Katona


Photo Gallery (coming soon)


Vernon had a way of drawing people together. That truth was evident on the 22nd of January 2000 when Mr. Keith's Banquet Centre was busting at the seams with Vernon's friends and fans. Four very special people traveled from Montreal and Drummondville to attend. Walter Bacon, Drummer, (see his lovely letter on this website). Leroy Mason, Saxophone player. Both Walter and Leroy are Rockhead Paradise alumni. Len Dobbin a world famous jazz critic who hosts a radio show in Montreal and Ralph Whims, a well-known promoter who kindly drove down to attend. Ken Jacobs played beautifully on the piano as Daphne Griffiths welcomed guests with a wonderful display of Vernon's historical photo and news clippings as they arrived to pay their respects to this great man.
The evening opened with a memorial where Keith Shirreffs spoke of Vernon's life both past and present, then opened the floor for others who wished to share their Vernon Stories. Brian Watson read a letter from his son Steve Watson, a young bass player now working in New York City. Bob Cross, Wayne, Sue Galvin and Jacques Emond, president of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival spoke. We then closed with a moment of silence to remember him each in our own way. Monique DesRosier sang "Vernon Isaac Blues", accompanied on the piano by Kim Kalen. Her original lyrics were written for Vernon's 78th birthday party at the Penguin Cafe. Look for them on the website, and I am sure you will agree, they certainly describe him. We remembered Vernon through the music of the Vernon Isaac Big Band. Carmelo Scaffidi led the band in a way that would make Vernon proud. We could almost imagine him sitting in the empty chair at the front where his two saxophones gleamed on their stand, and smoke curling from his ever present cigar sitting in the ash tray nearby. The band was cooking!! Carmelo had selected some of Vernon's favourite book numbers, one of which was "Caldonia". The people who have known Vernon's band in earlier times could just see him kick his legs almost over his head, and at the grand finale, escort some lovely shy young lady from the audience onto the stage during the drum solo, to squirm in embarrassment until the piece ended. Bob Misener did a great job of coordinating the ensuing jam session, and the musicians who participated did a great job of burnin' up the stage. It was reminiscent of a hot session at Jazz Ottawa. Keith and Joyce Shirreffs set out a lovely late night snack of sandwiches and pastries which were welcomed by all. Vernon, I'm sure was in his usual place guarding the food table, and trading stories with all that approached.

Keith and Joyce Shirreffs for generously hosting this memorial and providing food for everyone. The Vernon Isaac Big Band for "blowing the roof off" and being there for Vernon to the very end. Carmelo Scaffidi --Leader and First Trumpet; Michael Tremblay – Saxophone; JP Allain – Piano; Roddy Ellias – Guitar; Gary Elliot – Guitar; John Geggie -- Acoustic Bass; Michel Cloutier – Drums; Bob Cleall – Trumpet; Bill Rowat – Trumpet; Don Patterson – Trumpet; Art Katona – Trombone; Alex Guerin – Trombone; Steve Guerin – Bass Trombone.
Bob Misener -- co-ordinating the open stage; Shaun Blackstock -- bringing his drum set and kindly offering it to other players as well as sitting in for most of the jam. All of the fabulous musicians who treated us with intense, artful playing on the open stage. Many of the tunes were regular favourites at Jazz Ottawa.
The Vernon Memorial All-Star Jammers are:
Shaun blackstock – Drums; Monique DesRosiers – Vocalist; Kim Kalen – Piano; Neil Sealy – Bass; Tim Roberts – Saxophone; Peter Turner –Trombone; Bill Rowat – Trumpet; Gaby Warren – Vocalist;Bernard Stepien – Saxophone; Ann Downey – Bass; J.P. Allain – Piano; Don Patterson – Trumpet; John Haysom – Trumpet; Michel Cloutier – Drums; J. F. Delannoy – Piano.  Please let me know if I have left anyone out. Every one of you really contributed a lot to the evening. Daphne Griffiths -- prepared, lovingly displayed and presented the many scrap books of Vernon's career. The earlier years had been carefully documented in pictures, posters, and paraphernalia from those times, and the thrill of seeing into that era of Montreal Jazz was a really special experience. Sue Galvin and Daphne Griffiths put together the latter books of photos and clippings, which document much of the time Vernon spent in Ottawa. All evening people flocked to the books, and you could hear many stories being told that would come to mind when the images came to light. Bob Cross -- carried, delivered and set up much of the display of Vernon's possessions -- photo's, Jazz Ottawa things, hanging pictures. Great Job! Doug Biesenthal -- arranged the stage and assisted in helping Joyce and Keith set up the club for the guests. Carmelo Scaffidi -- set up the Vernon Isaac website to let everyone share memories, and kept us informed about the memorial. Mike Tremblay -- Thank you for sharing your store website for Vernon while a special site was set up. Mike's Music -- will work with and co-sponsor with "The Friends of Vernon Isaac Society" to set up a memorial fund in Vernon's name. More details can be seen on this website. Daniel Leavitt -- for finding and bringing in the music stands. Of course, all of you who attended -- old friends, new friends -- we all brought the spirit of Vernon Isaac with us and gave him a really great send-off!!
Blackbird, Bye Bye !!
- Sue Galvin

I personally would like to thank ALL of Vernon’s Big Band musician’s that gave their time and came out to the Vernon Isaac Memorial Celebration to perform for Vernon. Michel Cloutier, John Geggie, JP Allain, Rody Ellias, Gary Elliot, Steve Guerin, Alex Guerin, Art Katona, Bobby Cleall, Don Patterson, Bill Rowat and Michael Tremblay. Special thanks to Steve Guerin for the ‘stand by’ mode you offered – a true pro. Thanks Steve!
- Carmelo Scaffidi


- Lyrics by Monique DesRosier

When he walks into the room, you know he's arrived,
The smoke from his cigar leaves a trail a mile wide,
It hangs from his lips, a part of his mouth
And even when he kisses me, he doesn't take it out.

Let the good times roll,
Let the good times roll,
Feel his music in your soul,
Let the good times roll.

The guys all think he's slick, this man around town,
When it comes to wooing women, they can't seem to turn him down.
He moves in real close, lowers his voice,
Whispers in your ear, oh now, who's got a choice.

Let the good times roll ........

He dresses real clean, this saxophone man,
Hustling & busting, finding work for his band,
Musicians galore, a vocalist too,
But when it comes to saxophones,
You'll never find two.

Let the good times roll ............

The prayer meetin's called, the chairs are in place,
Sit yourselves down, I might deal you and ace,
The "livin' & dead" is the name of the game,
Take all your money, boys, you know that's my aim.

Let the good times roll ............

We've come here this evening, to pay our respect,
To a great jazz musician, one you'll never forget,
The gleam in his eye, the grin on his face,
Vernon, there is no one who will ever take your place.

Let the good times roll ........

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