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Canadian Heritage

Reg Schwager


REG SCHWAGER (guitarist) was born May 7, 1962 in Leiden, The Netherlands. He is known as one of Canada’s leading jazz guitarists. When he was three years old, his family movedfrom Holland to New Zealand where he studied Suzuki violin. When he was six, his family moved again, this time to Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. There he took music lessons in recorder, flute and piano before settling on the guitar as his main instrument. By the age of 15, he was playing jazz gigs in big band and small group settings and in duet with his sister Jeannette.

It was at two jazz workshops conducted by Phil Nimmons -at the University of Toronto (1978) and the Banff Centre (1979) - that Reg met some of the musicians he would begin working with soon after he moved to Toronto in 1979. They included fellow students Renee Rosnes and Ralph Bowen and faculty members including Nimmons, Dave McMurdo, Herbie Spanier and Pat LaBarbera. Since then he has worked steadily on the Toronto jazz scene and in other musical areas including new music (New Music Concerts, Hemispheres and Sound Pressure, among others) and improvised music (with musicians such as Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink).

Reg has toured extensively across Canada and worldwide with George Shearing, Diana Krall, Peter Appleyard, Rob McConnell, Emilie-Claire Barlow,  and many others. He appears on over 80 commercially released recordings with such artists as Junior Mance, Gary Burton, George Shearing and Mel Torme. Albums released under his own name include Resonance, Border Town, and Live at Mezzetta.

He has written hundreds of jazz compositions, some with lyrics by Jeannette Lambert. His arrangements for big band have been recorded by the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra, and his arrangements for string orchestra and jazz ensemble appear on Mike Murley's album, The Melody Lingers On.

For many years he has maintained a popular blog devoted to news about Brazilian music at He has attended workshops and classes with such Brazilian masters as Guinga, Dori Caymmi, Marcos Silva, Jovino Santos Neto, Paulo Sergio Santos and Hamilton de Holanda, mainly at the California-Brazil Camp. He is married to cellist Kiki Misumi.

Schwager released the album Duets in 2011, featuring bassists Pat Collins, Neil Swainson, Don Thompson, and Dave Young.

In 2012, Schwager released Trio Improvisations, which features Schwager and drummer Michel Lambert performing in a trio setting with three different artists: pianist Misha Mengelberg, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and saxophonist Michael Stuart.

In 2013, Schwager released duo recording featuring pianist David Restivo entitled Arctic Passage. The album features a number of standards and Schwager originals, as well as a song by Stephen Foster.

Schwager replaced guitarist Ed Bickert in the Mike Murley trio, and appears on their 2014 album, Looking Back.



Awarded an Honorable Mention in the ASCAP-IAJE Dizzy Gillespie Commissions in the category of “Emerging Jazz Composer”.
2005 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Guitarist of the Year'
2006 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Guitarist of the Year'
2007 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Guitarist of the Year'
2008 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Guitarist of the Year'