Ed Bickert

Edward Isaac Bickert, CM (born 29 November 1932 in Hochfeld, Manitoba, Canada; died February 28, 2019, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) was a Canadian jazz guitarist. Bickert moved to Toronto in his early twenties and began to establish a reputation in the local performance and recording scenes. Jazz flutist and saxophonist Moe Koffman was an early employer, and Bickert appeared on Koffman's late 1950s albums "Cool and Hot Sax" and "The Sheppard Swings Again". Through the 1960s and 1970s, Bickert was frequently hired in Toronto as a studio guitarist for traditional pop singers, singer-songwriters, and easy listening albums. In the late 1960s, he joined trombonist Rob McConnell's Boss Brass big band, and continued to play and record with the group for three decades. Over the years, this group featured several musicians Bickert would work with in his owns groups, including bassists Don Thompson and Steve Wallace, and drummers Jerry Fuller and Terry Clarke.

At age 42, Bickert was hired by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, and he played on Demond's final studio and live albums. Desmond's international audience of jazz fans and critics greatly increased Bickert's exposure and boosted his reputation. Following Desmond's death in 1977, Bickert continued to record and perform with well-known jazz stars including Milt Jackson, Ruby Braff, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, and Rosemary Clooney, Bickert also began recording under his own name starting in 1975, initially releasing albums on Canadian labels, and then signing with Concord Records in 1982. Between 1983 and 1990 Bickert released five albums under his own name on Concord, and appeared as a backing musician on several other Concord releases. Bickert also toured and recorded live albums with The Concord All-Stars, a group that included other Concord recording artists like Scott Hamilton, Warren Vache, Dave McKenna, and Ernestine Anderson. In the 1990s, Bickert recorded as a co-leader in two trios that featured his guitar with a bassist and one horn; the first was a trio with his longtime employer Rob McConnell, while the second was a group organized by saxophonist Mike Murley. Each trio released two albums (Bickert and McConnell also recorded a duo album in the mid-1980s, as well as a quintet album under McConnell's leadership in 1990).

Bickert stopped playing guitar in 2000. He explained his decision to the Toronto Globe and Mail in 2012: "I haven't played for 12 years, and I don't know if I could even remember how to hold the instrument right now [laughs]. I just packed it up completely. Maybe I'd had enough … My wife passed away, and at the time, I was having some problems with arthritis, and I was starting to drink quite heavily, and those things combined sort of finished me off. I just never tried to get back to it. I envy or admire people who keep going until they drop. But it just wasn't for me."

In 2012, Bickert was celebrated on his 80th birthday with a tribute concert in Toronto featuring many of the musicians he played with or influenced. Bickert died in 2019 after a battle with cancer.


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