RIP: Ed Bickert

Renowned Canadian jazz guitarist Edward (Isaac) Bickert died Thursday, Feb. 28. He was 86.

During the early 1950s, he worked as a radio engineer in Toronto. Following that, he became a go-to studio musician, recording as a sideman for Ron Collier, Moe Koffman, Phil Nimmons, Rob McConnell and many others.

He was in a duo with Don Thompson and a trio with Thompson and Terry Clarke. He also worked with American musicians when they performed in Toronto, including Paul Desmond, and Frank Rosolino. After playing in Japan with Milt Jackson, he recorded with Oscar Peterson, then Buddy Tate. He went on tour during the 1980s with McConnell, Koffman, and Peter Appleyard. He signed with Concord and recorded with Ernestine Anderson, Benny Carter, Rosemary Clooney, Lorne Lofsky, Dave McKenna, Ken Peplowski, and Neil Swainson. Lofsky was a member of his quartet in the 1980s and '90s.

He made his first studio recording on Moe Koffman’s unlikely hit single “Swinging Shepherd Blues”, and then became a regular member of the Moe Koffman Quintet that performed regularly at celebrated Toronto jazz haunt, George’s Spaghetti House, booked by Koffman as an agent.

Bickert was also a charter member and featured soloist with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass, and played with Phil Nimmons' bands for decades. In 1974, established American saxophonist Paul Desmond sought out Bickert to record, resulting in a series of albums that put him on the international map. Bickert never capitalized on his newfound fame as he was a reluctant traveller and felt a keen kinship with a coterie of notables in the city where he lived.

With McConnell he recorded 20 albums, plus more than 20 as a sideman with artists as varied as Shirley Eikhard, Humphrey Lyttelton, Benny Carter and Hagood Hardy. Other artists he recorded multiple albums with included Rosemary Clooney and Paul Desmond.

He was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1966 and, in 1980, earned his first and only Juno Award, with Don Thompson, for a collaborative live album entitled Sackville 4005.

– Sources: Wikipedia, FYI archives,

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