No tags :(

These radio shows are part of a series of posts celebrating the music of important Canadian musicians. As with the previous posts [Sonny Greenwich & Phil Nimmons] “The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada” was most useful in the preparation of this program. The following information has been adapted and updated from The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada. This post of Ed Bickert is special in that I not only recorded him on numerous occasions for Sackville recordings but came to respect and know him – if not intimately – then certainly as a “jazz friend”. This post also seems, in these strange times, a perfect way to start the new year.

ED BICKERT (Edward Isaac). Guitarist, born Hochfeld, Manitoba, 29 November 1932, died Toronto 28 February 2019. Bickert’s early experiences as a guitarist — he played “oldtime” music with his parents around Vernon in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in the 1940s — could in no way have predicted the grace and sophistication of his work with the elite of Canada’s jazz musicians 30 years later.

Bickert was introduced to jazz by records and radio and by guitarists travelling out of Vancouver with country and dance bands. Moving east in 1952 to Toronto, he frequented the House of Hambourg at first and was working with trombonist Ron Collier, saxophonist and flutist Moe Koffman and valve trombonist Rob McConnell by 1957 and with clarinetist Phil Nimmons by 1959; he also entered the Toronto studio world at this time.

He continued with Collier until 1967, with Nimmons into the early 1970s, with Koffman on an occasionally interrupted basis until 1999 and with McConnell in a variety of settings, including the Boss Brass, through 2000. He appeared on virtually all of McConnell’s recordings and most of Koffman’s jazz albums, as well as LPs by Collier and Nimmons.

Ed Bickert’s studio career ran concurrently into the mid-1970s, at which time he began to draw international attention on his own. An LP with the American alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, Pure Desmond (1974, CTI), was key in carrying his name and understated though sure-swinging and often bluesy style to the world; notice was inevitably also taken of Bickert’s unlikely choice of guitar, a Fender Telecaster, albeit a Telecaster that he had modified — or, rather, moderated, given its more accustomed place in rock music — by using a humbucker pickup at the neck.

Ed Bickert played on several other albums issued under Desmond’s name, all of them taken from engagements in 1975 at Bourbon Street in Toronto, including the LPs The Paul Desmond Quartet Live (Horizon/Verve) and Paul Desmond (Artists House) and the CD Like Someone in Love (Telarc). A seven-CD compilation issued by Mosaic in 2020, Paul Desmond — The Complete 1975 Toronto Recordings, brought together all of the Desmond-Bickert performances recorded during their Bourbon Street encounters.

His own trio, completed at the time by bassist Don Thompson and drummer Terry Clarke, recorded in support of three other Americans for the Sackville label, trombonist Frank Rosolino in 1976, cornetist Ruby Braff in 1979 and tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate in 1981. Bickert toured Japan in 1979 with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, yet another acquaintance made at Bourbon Street.

The Bickert trio on its own recorded Ed Bickert (1975, PM) at George’s Spaghetti House and I Like to Recognize the Tune (1977, United Artists); the title of the latter LP, an anomalous pop instrumental album with a string ensemble, spoke volumes about the value that Bickert typically placed on the clarity, simplicity and elegance of melody. There followed two duo LPs with Don Thompson for Sackville, Ed Bickert/Don Thompson (1978) and Dance to the Lady (1980), and one with Rob McConnell for Innovation, Mutual Street (1982-4). The first of his collaborations with Thompson won a Juno Award in 1979.

In 1983 Ed Bickert joined a fellow Canadian, Vancouver tenor saxophonist Fraser MacPherson, on the roster of the California label Concord Jazz, completing four more recordings under his own name — The Ed Bickert 5 at Bourbon Street (1983), Bye Bye Baby (1983), I Wished on the Moon (1985) and Third Floor Richard (1989). He shared a fifth, the CD This Is New (1989), with Lorne Lofsky, his partner on an earlier LP, The Quartet of Lorne Lofsky and Friend (1985, Unisson); Lofsky is just one of many younger Toronto guitarists who have absorbed the subtleties of Bickert’s style, in particular a nuanced command of harmony that transcends the guitar’s inherent limitations.

His work for Concord also included several LPs 1983-7 with singer Rosemary Clooney and others with Fraser MacPherson, the American alto saxophonist Benny Carter and the Concord All Stars. In 1991 he and another American, pianist Bill Mays, established a most sympathetic partnership at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto; they, too, recorded for Concord — the CD Bill Mays/Ed Bickert (1994).

Bickert otherwise saw his profile slip somewhat during the 1990s, although he travelled abroad with Mays, the Canadian All Stars (Fraser MacPherson, saxophonist Jim Galloway, pianist Oliver Jones, etc), Moe Koffman, Rob McConnell and drummer Barry Elmes; he recorded with the All Stars and appeared on several CDs each by Elmes and tenor saxophonist Mike Murley, as well as on albums by Trudy Desmond, Shirley Eikhard, Bobbi Sherron and other Toronto singers.

He retired from music in 2000. He departure from the scene prompted the release of two more CDs, each drawn from older material. One, The Guitar Mastery of Ed Bickert (DSM), included performances from a 1979 Radio Canada International transcription and a 1993 CBC radio broadcast with Fraser MacPherson and guitarist Oliver Gannon. The other, Days Gone By (Sackville), also originally a CBC radio broadcast, documented a rare encounter in 1979 with Sonny Greenwich, Bickert’s only rival — a friendly one at that — in matters of influence, originality, respect and renown among Canadian guitarists.

End Notes:
“The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada” can be purchased through the normal web sources or found at your local library. If it’s not in your local library catalogue make a special order. This book, with its companion “Jazz in Canada – Fourteen Lives” is a great way to introduce yourself to the artists who have created the Canadian jazz music scene.

Photograph of Ed Bickert by Mark Miller

Information about Hornby Island Radio shows can be found at: https://hornbyradio.com/about/?

A selection of Podcasts can be heard at: https://hornbyradio.com/dj-info/

Comments are welcome: classicimprov@yahoo.ca

Please pass this post along to your friends.…

To Subscribe to my website please go to the left of the heading on this page and enter your E-mail address, then click the Sign Up Button. An e-mail is then sent to your the E-mail address instructing you as to the next step. To prove you are not a robot being one of the checks!