Cranbrook’s notable hard-rock guitar legend Jacen Dean (“JD”) Ekstrom has died.
Ekstrom was suddenly struck with a ruptured aorta on October 28 while in Calgary and was immediately rushed to Foothills Hospital, where after a brave struggled for his life (and surrounded by his family) he passed away on the afternoon of November 7. He was 42.
Inspired in his teens by the hard-rock sounds of KISS, Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses and the like, Ekstrom displayed an in-born natural talent with the electric guitar, and soon established himself as one of the flashier lead-guitar soloists in the Cranbrook music community. His early local bands (Teaser and Ebony Tusk) were strong draws in local house-parties and rock cabarets, and Ekstrom’s dashing style was inspirational to many young local musicians of the time.
Graduating from Mount Baker Senior Secondary in 1990, Ekstrom then attended the illustrious Selkirk College Music Program in Nelson, B.C., as a Performance Major before striking out on a professional music career.
Ekstrom’s next band 1-900 (based in Calgary, where he made his home) undertook extensive Canadian touring and landed prime support slots for more established artists, but it was when he joined Vancouver’s alternative-rock unit Neurosonic that Ekstrom’s major-label career truly took flight. While in Neurosonic, he performed alongside famous acts such as Korn, Trivium, Atreyu, and Evanescence, and joined the bill on the Family Values and Warped Tour package-showcases.
Ekstrom met Canadian rocker Bif Naked in 2009 through Neurosonic’s management, and after Neurosonic evolved into the new band CrashScene, he found himself as the new lead guitarist for her group. Ekstrom was instrumental in the current resurgence of Bif Naked, appearing live with her as an acoustic duo as well as with the full-bore high-energy electric lineup.
Bif Naked herself recalls her experiences with Ekstrom with an understandable combination of sadness and fondness.
“JD joined the band when I was still finishing my final rounds of cancer treatment,” Bif said. “I was still a sick girl, but I didn’t know that. JD did know, and right from the start he was very kind and protective and helping. Once I realized what an astounding musician he really was, he just continually blew me away. He became my security blanket. I never had to worry onstage when JD was riffing away or shredding out a screaming solo. He became my mentor, and he basically was the bandleader! He always wrote the set lists for every show, he always transcribed the music for our bandmates. His professional demeanour never faltered, ever. Always such a pro. I’m trying to envision what it’ll be like to play music with him gone.
“But it was more than mere musical connection. JD was a good friend to me. One of the last wonderful memories of him was when he and his wife Jenn and their daughter shared dinner with me at my apartment in Vancouver. Such a good visit. Laughter and joy. I feel lucky to have known him for as long as I did.”
A memorial service for family and friends will be held in Calgary this Saturday.