What's Hot with Jazz Guitar: Ed Bickert

by Doc Dosco

This week we feature Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert. I am a transplanted
Canadian living in Los Angeles, California, but I still have special place in
my heart for Canadian guitarists, and Ed Bickert is one of the very best.

Online Bio

Ed Bickert was born in Hochfeld, Manitoba on November 29th, 1932, and
raised in Vernon, British Columbia. His early interest in guitar was in
part influenced by his musical household (his mother and father played
piano and guitar in country bands). He was self-taught, developing an
interest in jazz harmony by studying and analyzing Stan Kenton records.
Via radio broadcasts from the American West Coast, he heard and was
influenced by Nat "King" Cole Trio guitarist Oscar Moore, Barney Kessel
and Les Paul. In his early teens he gained experience by playing onstage
with his parents.

In 1952 Ed moved to Toronto, working as a radio station engineer and
playing after-hours jazz clubs on the side. Shy and retiring, he was
slow to work himself into the Toronto jazz circuit, but by 1955 he was a
regular club performer -- and in 1957, he made his first studio
recording date, appearing on Moe Koffman's fluke hit single Swinging
Shepherd Blues.

In the 60s, Ed worked regularly with Koffman and other major figures of
Canadian jazz. He was invited to be a founding member of Rob McConnell's
Boss Brass in 1968 and has played with that unit ever since, as well as
becoming increasingly in demand as a session guitarist.

In 1974, on the recommendation of the legendary Jim Hall, the equally
legendary Paul Desmond sought out Ed to form a performing quartet,
marking Desmond's return to the musical stage after an absence of seven
years. Desmond, a jazz star who had seen the world and played with the
best, was utterly blown away by Ed's playing, and determined to record
with him; this marked Ed's first session for an American label, with
consequent wider exposure. During the next three years [Desmond's last],
the Desmond-Bickert quartet performed frequently, and many of these gigs
were recorded. (Lucky for us! Paul and Ed brought out the best in each
other, and their records together constitute a high-water mark in jazz.)

In 1979, Ed recorded a duo album with his fellow Desmond Quartet alumnus
Don Thompson -- the album won the 1980 Juno Award for Best Jazz
Recording of the Year.

In the 80s, Ed continued to work regularly with Koffman and McConnell.
Furthermore, he signed with Concord Jazz Records, which meant even
greater exposure in the States. For Concord, he frequently backed up
Rosemary Clooney, toured with the Concord Jazz All-Stars, and [finally]
began to record as a session leader on a regular basis.

In 1983, Ed also became co-leader of a dual-guitar quartet with Lorne
Lofsky, an arrangement that lasted a full ten years.

The 90s have seen Ed go on unstoppably -- working with Canada's jazz
élite, hotly sought after by fellow musicians but shunning the
limelight, playing like God on that same old, worn, creamy-yellow Tele.

And finally, on January 7, 1997, our Governor-General appointed Ed as a
Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his "distinguished
service" to Canadian music. This entitles Ed to wear a medal like the
one pictured over there, and to append to his name the honorific CM.
(Chances are he greeted the news with an "aw shucks" worthy of Gary

Webite with sound clips:

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com, where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorses Heritage Guitars and is featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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