Originally from Calgary, trombonist Ian McDougall moved to Victoria as a teenager, then studied music at UBC. By the end of the 1960s, he was already accomplished on the local circuit, and CBC Records released MUSIC BY IAN McDOUGALL in early 1970.
While lending himself out to other artists’ projects, CBC urged him to put together a group for recordings. He formed PACIFIC SALT with Irish-born and Winnipeg-raised guitarist Oliver Gannon, following a few years of studies at Berklee. In came drummer George Ursan pianist Ron Johnston, and Tony Clitheroe on bass, all who’d worked with MacDougall in Fraser MacPherson’s projects. Ursan had also worked together with MacDougall on David Robbins’ albums, They added Calgary-born PJ Perry on sax, and CBC released the 7″ single, “Cycle Song” in early ’73. From those same sessions, they followed it up shortly after with the full album, JAZZ CANADIANA. The record also featured Don Clark, one of the CBC’s go-to guys on trumpet and was produced by George Laverock again. The tracks were all original contemporary jazz numbers, with Gannon, MacDougall, and Johnston writing the majority of it, along with Perry’s “PJ Too!” and Ursan’s “Raw Toast.”
They signed with upstart Gramaphone Records in Vancouver, a label specializing in west coast jazz, and before the year was over released their self-titled album. Another exploration of jazz fusion with Gannon, MacDougall, and Johnston doing most of the writing. But Gramaphone closed its doors shortly after, and they continued doing session and live work on their own, as well as performing as a group around the west coast theatres for the next year or so.
MacDougall left for Toronto for awhile, amidst the band signing with Little Mountain Sound in ’75. They booked Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Playhouse one summer evening shortly thereafter. Clark showed up with his trumpet, and they released a portion of that performance as the aptly titled LIVE album that year. This would be the only album Little Moutain would ever release. Although they were again written by the main trio, none of the six tracks had appeared on any of their previous releases.
They effectively dissolved shortly after that, but all continued in the business for the rest of their careers, and became cornerstones of the Canadian jazz industry. MacDougall, Johnston, and Gannon released a pair of albums as a trio, the stripped down jazzy THREE album in ’76, and RIO, full of Latin rhythms in ’79.
MacDougall continued working on countless projects over the years, including over a dozen records with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass. He also taught music at UBC and the University of Victoria through the ’80s. Along with working with the likes of Bill Watrous, Jiggs Whigham, Fraser MacPherson, and Oliver Jones, he released five solo albums, including 2005’s IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD as The Ian MacDougall Quintet, focusing on the works of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. It was one of several records over the decades that saw a reunion of at least part of Pacific Salt.
Gannon’s projects over the years included appearing on a CBC jazz compilation in ’75, then on a string of his own and others’ records over the decades, including the Juno-winning ’83 duet album with MacPherson, I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU.
Alongside other projects and albums, Johnston released the independent solo album in 2005, REMEMBERING TOMORROW. Ursan meanwhile worked with Susan Jacks on her GHOSTS album in 1980, and guested around here and there in the Vancouver area throughout his career. This included working with Corky Corcoran and recording TROMBONE HEAVEN with Frank Rosolino and Carl Fontana.
Perry also mainly resided in BC and continued to work with the likes of Ron Collier, Sonny Greenwich, Maury Kaye and Tommy Banks, among others. He released his first solo album, SESSIONS in 1978, MY IDEAL in ’89, and TIME FLIES in 2005. He and MacDougall reunited in 2007, working on Oliver Jones’ Montreal and Vancouver shows that became the CBC’s JAZZ LEGENDS double CD.