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Legendary Canadian jazz guitarist Jim Kilburn dies at age 94 in Qualicum Beach

‘He was an inspiration to all who knew him’
Canadian jazz guitarist Jim Kilburn, left, and son Rick. Jim Kilburn died on Nov. 13, 2021 at his home in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)

Canadian jazz guitarist Jim Kilburn has died at the age of 94.

Kilburn passed away peacefully on Nov. 13 at his home in Qualicum Beach.

A press release said Kilburn was a “husband, father, music mentor, writer of fly-fishing and entomology, master fly-tier, illustrator, cartoonist, electrical technician, founding member of the Totem Fly Fishers, and president of the original Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver.”

He was was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Steveston, B.C. He was predeceased by his wife Joyce in 2015 and is survived by his son Rick.

On hearing the news of Jim’s death, Canadian Polaris music prize juror and former DownBeat magazine jazz music critic, guitarist Kerilie McDowall said: “Jim Kilburn was a true master. The refined subtlety and nuances within his melodies and guitar phrasing are heard only in guitar players of the highest calibre; the greats such as Ed Bickert, and Wes Montgomery. His approach was so fluid, his improvisation was compositional, structured with a knowing intuition and thoughtful development. He played wonderfully into his senior years and was an inspiration to all who knew him.”

Jim’s years as president of the Cellar, Vancouver’s original underground jazz club, had him brushing elbows with the world’s very best jazz musicians, and he became close friends with musicians of the likes of Wes Montgomery and his brothers, Howard Roberts, Don Cherry, Ernestine Anderson, Scott LaFaro and many others.

READ MORE: Short documentary about Qualicum Beach jazz musician gets film festival nod

Kilburn designed his retirement home, which he and Joyce together built in Qualicum Beach, and from where they hiked The West Coast Trail, climbed to and camped at Della Falls, climbed several Strathcona Park mountains, and often ascended their home mountain, Arrowsmith, many times until Joyce’s health began to fail. Jim also played guitar for 14 years at the Tuesday afternoon sessions of the jazz club in The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH) in Qualicum Beach. Ron Hadley had established the TOSH Jazz Club entirely so that he could play together with Jim, which they did until Jim retired from playing guitar at the age of 87.

Jim’s son Rick said his father was highly gifted at many different talents and skills.

“My Dad truly was a genuine renaissance man,” he said. “He wasn’t just a gifted and brilliant jazz guitarist or fly fisher. He was an accomplished writer, a cartoonist/illustrator artist, a great thinker, a fine husband and mentor. My father had many talents. For example, when he became the electrical technician who rewrote the electrical code book for Vancouver, we were all just so proud of him. He wasn’t just a teacher and creative technician, he was refined, the ultimate gentleman, clever, witty, and humorous. I can’t begin to explain how much our family admired and loved him and appreciated him. He is already greatly missed.”

There will be a celebration of life for Jim at the Kilburn family home in summer 2022. News updates will be posted at

— NEWS Staff, submitted

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