Collection - Al Neil collection

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Al Neil collection

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Dates of creation area


  • 1962 - 1994 (Creation)
    Neil, Al

Physical description area

Physical description

11 audio compact discs (11 hrs., 28 min., 23 sec.)

8 optical discs (4 hrs., 34 min., 29 sec.) : DVD

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Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Al Neil is a writer, jazz musician, composer, visual artist and performance artist. He was a prominent figure in the Vancouver arts scene and was particularly influential on the post war literary, jazz and visual arts communities through the 1950s to the 1970s. He is considered one of Canada’s great interdisciplinary pioneers.

Neil was born on March 26, 1924 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received music lessons as a child, and began creating artworks as a young man while stationed in Port Hardy when working as a surveyor for the Department of Transportation. Neil later joined the army as a surveyor and saw action during the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. After he left the army and returned to Vancouver, Neil continued music lessons, with a strong interest in the jazz scene. At the same time, he was also interested in the arts and literature.

In 1958, Neil, along with four others, opened the Cellar, a jazz club at Main and Broadway, with his group as the house band. His music from this period has been described as experimental, avant-garde and bebop. The Cellar also brought a number of prominent jazz artists to Vancouver, such as Art Pepper, Ornette Coleman and others. The influence of these performers on Neil and the Vancouver jazz scene was profound. Dropping out of public performance for a few years, Neil re-emerged in the mid-sixties with a more experimental form of music making incorporating Dada elements, moving from jazz to sound-works incorporating mixed tape, and toy instruments among other elements. In the 1970s he also began exhibiting his artworks. Neil also published books, magazine articles, poetry and short stories.

By the early 1990s, Neil had withdrawn from the public eye. In 2003 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Neil continues to live in Vancouver.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The collection consists of audio and moving image recordings of performances by Al Neil and various musical ensembles that performed with him (Al Neil Trio, Al Neil Jazz Probe, Al Neil Quartet, and solo efforts). They include performances at the Vancouver School of Art, Simon Fraser University, The Western Front and others. The performances date from 1962 through 1989, although this collection contains CD and DVD copies (not the original recordings).

These copies were produced as part of the Al Neil Project, a 2005 collaborative effort between the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, New Orchestra Workshop, Coastal Jazz and Blues Society and the grunt gallery.

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Copied from original recordings belonging to the artist.


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See archivist.

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Item level description available.

Associated materials

The Belkin's collection of fine art includes 6 artworks by Neil (drawing/mixed media and collage/mixed media).

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