|Birth name||Charles Reed Biddle|
July 28, 1926|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
|Died||February 4, 2003
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Associated acts||Sadik Hakim|
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, Biddle lived most of his life in Montreal. However he did not become a Canadian citizen until his last years. After completing military duties in the US Armed Forces during World War II, serving in China, India and Burma, he went on to study music at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he started playing bass. In 1948, he arrived in Montreal while touring with Vernon Isaac's Three Jacks and a Jill. Biddle was fascinated by the fact that in Canada, particularly Quebec, you would see black jazz musicians playing alongside white jazz musicians as the best of friends. Impressed with the opened-mindedness of the people of Canada in matters of race, he decided to settle down in Montreal, and fell in love with a French-Canadian woman, Constance. The two eventually married and raised three daughters – Sonya, Stephanie and Tracy – and a son, Charles Biddle Jr.
Biddle was employed as a car salesman from 1954 to 1972, while performing with pianists Charlie Ramsey, Milt Sealey, Alfie Wade, Sadik Hakim, and Stan Patrick in local Montreal nightclubs. As a promoter, he booked musicians Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan and Thad Jones to perform in Montreal. He performed off and on with guitarist Nelson Symonds between 1959 and 1978. Between 1961 and 1963 they performed together under Biddle's leadership at Dunn's, La Tête de l'Art, etc.; and under Symonds' leadership at the Black Bottom from 1964 to 1968. As a duo they performed at several resort communities in the Laurentians between 1974 and 1978.
He was an important supporter and promoter of Jazz music in Montreal. He frequently organized outdoor festivals of local jazz musicians, particularly Jazz Chez Nous, a 3-day Jazz Festival in 1979 and another in 1983 which laid the foundation for the Montreal International Jazz Festival, now the world's largest jazz festival.
In 1981 he lent his name to a Jazz club in downtown Montreal on Aylmer Street (corner President Kennedy), which became known as Biddle's (now known as House of Jazz) and was featured in the Bruce Willis film The Whole Nine Yards with his daughter Stephanie Biddle on vocals. Biddle's club remained at the heart of jazz culture in Montreal during his lifetime. When performing at the club he would use the title, 'Charlie Biddle on the fiddle', and led trios at the club on a regular basis, along with pianists Oliver Jones, Steve Holt, Wray Downes, and Jon Ballantyne. He played at the club weekly up until the last months before his death, on February 4, 2003, in his Montreal home surrounded by his family. He did not become a Canadian citizen until the year 2000.
Biddle recorded LPs with Milt Sealey, Ted Curson, and Oliver Jones. He also performed on the big-screen in such feature films as The Whole Nine Yards, 2000; The Moderns, 1988; and the French-Canadian film Les Portes Tournantes, 1988.
Biddle received the Oscar Peterson Prize in 2000, was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2003, and was honored with the Prix Calixa-Lavallée in 2003. The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society stated that: "Without him, Québecers might not have developed their love for jazz that has made Montreal a host of one of the greatest jazz festivals in the world."
Albums and CDs
- Live at the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, 1983.
- Live at Biddle's jazz and ribs. Oliver Jones trio, 1983.
- In good company, Downes, Jones, O'Neal piano, Muhammad Drums, Ring guitar, 1996.