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Levesque’s parents split up in the mid ’60s, after which he moved to Edmonton with his mother and brother, Darcy. After a year in Calgary, where his mother attended classes at the University of Calgary, they were back in Edmonton and relocated to the Westmount area. It was there and later Ross Sheppard High School that Levesque met many of his friends.

Levesque was ravenous for jazz of all stripes, and Good has countless stories about their group of friends attending concerts where they saw such legends as saxophonist Sam Rivers. Good pinpoints that particular show as the one that really swept Levesque into music. He also believes that a particular bit of conceptual humour may have been what prompted Levesque to sign up as DJ for the University of Alberta campus radio station CJSR a few years later.

“The gang, including Roger, were in a friend’s backyard making music using blades of grass. They recorded it and sent it into a radio station, I think CJSR. Lo and behold someone found a way to play it. I’m not sure how the gig came about, but he always had a radio voice, and I’m sure a lot of people mentioned it.”

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In the early ‘80s, Levesque worked as a bartender at the fondly remembered The Palms Cafe. Singer-songwriter Terry Morrison was a server, while local wine and food guru Bill Medak managed the space, which offered vegetarian food and jazz in equal measure. Medak recalls that Levesque was starting to dabble in writing and acts like the Zoot Sims-Al Cohn All Stars and Yusef Lateef had an effect on his tastes.

“He knew everybody that came through,” Medak recalls. “He was a meticulous bartender and a huge fan of the music.”

When Levesque started volunteering in 1984 at CJSR he also began contributing to the station’s magazine, Airtight. He interviewed minimalist composer Philip Glass and wrote articles on the state of jazz, bringing to bear an already impressive knowledge on the topic. He hosted a show called Jazz Is, eventually moving on to start the long-running Planet Shift. Levesque also quickly became the station’s music director in 1984, holding on to that mantle through the ‘80s.

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According to Peter North, who first met Levesque at The Palms and later became a colleague at the Journal, it was with his long-form interviews that he especially shined.

“He knew where to pull the threads that had been given him in an interview,” says North. “These artists were forever appreciative that he went there, and you can tell because you’ll find Roger’s quotes alongside quotes from Downbeat magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle in their press kits.”

Filmmaker Shreela Chakrabartty met Levesque through CJSR and they developed a lifelong friendship. Chakrabartty, whose connections in the Edmonton arts community interlocked with Levesque’s many interests, remains amazed at her friend’s writing reach. This eventually included dance, which Levesque began reviewing and previewing for the Journal sometime around 2018.

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“It didn’t surprise me during one of our catchups that he was in Banff doing a residency in ballet, a story that would bring the art form into the present day,” she says. “He was about to write a story on the Thousand Faces inaugural Indian classical dance festival. Members of the arts community eagerly awaited his authentic writeups.”

After Levesque was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2020 he did what he did best: he summoned what energy he had left and wrote about it in a series of articles for the Journal. It was some of the best writing of his life, and he was nominated for a 2020 National Newspaper Award as a finalist for the William Southam Award for Long Feature. His colleagues rallied around him, raising a tidy sum of money to help with the sudden drop-off in income. Levesque was taken aback and touched, startled out of his usual poker-faced stance. What he seemed to be unaware of was the high regard in which he was held by his peers.

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“He had such a broad, encyclopedic knowledge of music, starting of course with jazz and blues, but he could write knowledgeably about any kind of music and did so enthusiastically when called upon,” says one of his former editors, Keri Sweetman. “He could also write about theatre, opera, ballet, anything in the arts realm. He was a wonderful Fringe reviewer. Beyond that, Roger was kind and interesting and funny, with a dry wit, and absolutely dedicated to Edmonton’s arts scene. I always looked forward to him dropping by my office, wearing his signature fedora, and settling in for a good conversation.”

One article can’t do justice to everything Levesque was involved and interested in. Aside from CJSR he had stints at CKUA and showed up occasionally as a pundit on CBC. According to North, he was looking for the opportunity to write a book on jazz legend Tommy Banks. He loved film and had a substantial DVD collection in his apartment. He also worked as an actor in medical training videos and took serious preparation for his many roles. According to his sister, Levesque was so believable that occasionally a young intern would be fooled.

In the days following his initial diagnosis, Levesque’s family gathered around him as he began treatment at the Cross Cancer Institute. On his website, he allows that he often felt like an “only child” due to the family split, but that the last few years had healed something in him. It also allowed him to find peace with his, at times, dark view of the world.

A celebration of Roger’s life is being planned for sometime this summer and will be announced on his website,

This content was originally published here.