Al Neil (who lived in the Blue Cabin on the North Vancouver waterfront for many decades, paying the rent by working as a night watchman for McKenzie Barge shipyard next door) first came to prominence on the local jazz scene playing bop piano. He was one of the original founders of The Cellar jazz club in the ‘50s and later formed a trio which featured North Vancouver teen Gregg Simpson on drums and Richard Anstey on bass. The free-form jazz group opened for the likes of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead as well as maintaining a local presence playing their inside/outside music in galleries and art spaces. A two-CD release on Blue Minor Records, Al Neil Trio, Retrospective 1965-1968, documents those heady times. Other Neil recordings include Boot and Fog, released on Music Gallery Editions in 1980 and Kenneth Patchen Reads With Jazz in Canada, originally released on Folkways in 1959 and rereleased on Locust Music in 2004.
Al Neil Trio “In Search of Innocence” (1964):
Al Neil Trio on the CBC show Enterprise, 1967:
Al Neil profiled at All Music Guide:
Al Neil’s published works – including West Coast Lokas (1972), Changes (1975), Slammer (1980) and Origins (1989) – capture what UK writer Bill Shoemaker of Wire Magazine called “a Canadian original, whose passionate abandon blurred the line between genius and goof.” Carole Itter, co-edited with Daphne Marlatt, 2011’s Opening Doors, In Vancouver’s East End: Strathcona, considered one of the best books ever written about Vancouver history.
Al Neil website:
Al Neil bio at BC Bookworld:
Carole Itter is an accomplished assemblage artist whose work, Grand Piano Rattle: A Bosendorfer for Al Neil (1984), is included in the permanent collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Both Itter and Neil filled the landscape around the Blue Cabin with their found art assemblages.
Carole Itter CV:
Carole Itter – Grand Piano Rattle: A Bosendorfer for Al Neil, 1984:
Al Neil – A Portrait by David Rimmer (shot at the Blue Cabin 1979):
For more information on the efforts to save the Blue Cabin visit bit.ly/1WWtTRv.
For more information on Burrard Inlet history go to: Squatters recycled utopian dreams (bit.ly/1TDawfk); Malcolm Lowry/Dollarton Days (bit.ly/1B1yGE4); Boot and Fog (bit.ly/1wCgwXY), Children of Tomorrow/Tsleil-Waututh (bit.ly/1Lofll9) and Tsleil-Waututh write themselves back into Western history books (bit.ly/1NgZzJZ).