Ted O’Reilly is a Toronto-based broadcaster, producer, and writer, born in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is a 1963 graduate of the Radio & Television Arts course at Ryerson Institute of Technology (now Ryerson University). After graduation, he worked in commercial radio at CKKW in Kitchener and at CHIC in Brampton.
In 1965, O’Reilly joined CJRT-FM Toronto, a publicly supported educational station. Given the freedom to present real jazz, he produced and presented a six-day-a-week show
The Jazz Scene for the next 37 years. In 2002, he left the station--renamed JAZZ.FM91--unhappy with the commercial direction and diluted content.
In the mid-1960s, there were few recordings by Canadian jazz artists, so O’Reilly created The Sound of Toronto Jazz, a series of live performances. Eventually, he presented over 250 concerts, all recorded for broadcast.
In addition, Ted recorded several hundred other performances at concert halls and clubs. Many have been released on labels such as Justin Time, Sackville and his own Unisson label in Canada; Maracatu in France, Philology in Italy, and US firms MusicMasters, Music & Arts and Label M. Artists include Kenny Wheeler, Ray Bryant, Oliver Jones, Niels Lan Doky, Sonny Greenwich, Jay McShann, Lenny Breau, Ralph Sutton, John Abercrombie, and Geoff Keezer.
As well, O’Reilly has produced in-studio recordings by Canadian and international artists Dick Hyman and Dick Wellstood, Rob McConnell, Gene DiNovi, Ed Bickert, Art Ellefson with Tommy Flanagan, Fraser MacPherson, singer Trudy Desmond, and others for Unisson and for Candid in the U.K. Outside the jazz world, he has produced releases for the classical piano duo Anagnoson & Kinton, and satirical singer/songwriter Nancy White.
Ted O’Reilly has interviewed hundreds of jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Charles Mingus, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Buddy Rich, Eubie Blake and Cab Calloway. He has written reviews and articles for many publications, including coda, En Route, Maclean’s, AudioScene, and WholeNote, which covers Toronto’s classical and jazz communities. As well, Arbors, Justin Time, Sackville, and other record companies have had him write liner notes for their releases.
Over the years, Ted O’Reilly has been acknowledged for his jazz contributions. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Ken Page Memorial Trust (KPMT). The Toronto Musicians Association has made him an Honorary Life Member in recognition of his work on behalf of musicians and live music; and Ryerson gave him a Fellowship for accomplishments in broadcasting.
Ted O’Reilly is a three-time winner of the Canadian Music Council’s national award for Best Jazz Broadcast. In 1998, the Ontario Association of Broadcasters gave him the Canadian Talent Development Award for the Sound of Toronto Jazz series. His production and recording of pianist Oliver Jones’ trio at Montreal Bistro in Toronto won the Felix Award from Quebec’s Asdiq as album de l’annee—Jazz in 1999. Ted has been given the Harbourfront Molson Award for services to traditional jazz, and when the Orillia Jazz Festival began in 1991, they made him their Honorary Chairman.
As the 20th century ended, O’Reilly produced and presented (with research and writing by John Norris, founder of coda, Canada’s Jazz Magazine) the 26-hour radio series The Jazz Century, heard in Ontario and Alberta and on more than fifty public radio stations across the United States.
He has hosted many discussion panels, including a 2003 Massey Hall convocation on the 50th Anniversary of the famous “Greatest Jazz Concert” by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. The panelists included Herbie Hancock, David Holland and Roy Hargrove. For SOCAN, O’Reilly conducted Composers’ Workshops, and for KPMT Master Classes by George Shearing. He has lectured at Phil Nimmons’ Jazz Camp At Manitou-Wabing and frequently served as a jurist for the Juno Awards, FACTOR and Ontario Arts Council.
For a decade and a half, with John Norris, O’Reilly led groups to the Bern Jazz Festival, and more recently brought fans to the Newport Jazz Festival on board the QE2. Other jazz cruises have been on the Seabourn, Princess, and other lines, with Guido Basso as the music director.
In 2014, at the invitation of photographer Pat LaCroix, Ted came aboard a project Pat had just started (and was to take three years to complete): creating a limited-edition 'coffee table' book of portraits of Toronto Jazz Treasures. To accompany LaCroix' intimate B&W photos, Ted wrote the book's forward and bios of 100 great jazz musicians in Toronto.
As a dedicated jazz fan himself, Ted has attended conferences, jazz festivals, and “jazz parties” around the world. He has listened to jazz all over Canada and the US; in Paris and Lyon; in Berlin, Cologne, Munich and Hamburg; in Zurich, Montreux, Geneva, Baden and Lugano; in Milano, Florence and Rome; in Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Sydney, and Singapore. He is pleased to say he has found jazz everywhere.
Ted currently resides in downtown Toronto and still can be seen most nights doing what he loves best-—listening to live jazz.
9" x 12" hardcover book with 100 portraits of Toronto's great jazz musicians.
"THIS BOOK COMES AS JAZZ IS ENTERING ITS SECOND CENTURY, and for the last five-plus decades I’ve been paying close attention to the Toronto scene, first as a fan and later as a radio broadcaster.
I think the history of jazz in Toronto is in most ways a history of jazz in Canada. It’s a fact the city’s music has risen from the combination of the local artists with those who have come from across the country and around the world. I guess a ‘Toronto Jazz Treasure’ is one who has made wonderful music while in the city. As simple as that..."
Toronto Jazz Treasures
Photographs by Pat LaCroix
Text by Ted O'Reilly