Ed Bickert and Fraser MacPherson. Photo courtesy of the Fraser MacPherson estate
|Birth name||Edward Isaac Bickert|
November 29, 1932 |
Second youngest of his family, Bickert was born in Hochfeld, Manitoba; his family (parents and 5 children) moved shortly after he was born to Vernon, British Columbia. Although their primary occupation was in farming and orchards, where the children worked as well, his mother was a pianist, and father was a fiddler. Young Ed learned to play basic guitar chords from his sole older brother. On the weekends during the 1940s, he joined in with his parents playing at country dances. After high school, he worked briefly before driving across Canada to Toronto, Ontario with an aspiring writer friend, in 1952. He managed to establish himself in a few years, after a few non-paying jobs, and taking some formal guitar lessons, as guitar player for the leading jazz groups in Toronto.
By the sixties, he was a first-call studio musician.
Notable for his long association with the late Moe Koffman and Phil Nimmons' recordings, Bickert became a charter member of Rob McConnell's Boss Brass. He also played with American musicians who employed Toronto rhythm sections in local gigs. Bickert played regularly at George's Spaghetti House with fellow members of Moe Koffman's band, with and without Moe. Bickert married, and eschewing the road, stayed at home and raised a family of his own.
A friendship with renowned guitarist Jim Hall merited a recommendation to Hall's old acquaintance, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who was looking for a band in the 1970s. Desmond quickly felt a rapport with Bickert, and bassist Don Thompson, who recorded some of their appearances at the now-defunct Bourbon Street club in Toronto, with two different drummers. Recordings from those sessions were released as "Paul Desmond Quartet LIVE" in LP format by A&M Records, and additional tracks were released much later on CD by Telarc. Desmond's enthusiasm for the guitarist's style persuaded him to record with Bickert in the United States at Rudy Van Gelder's studio with musicians Connie Kay on drums, and bassist Ron Carter—the album Pure Desmond was the result.
The guitarist's use of the solid-body Fender Telecaster especially sets him apart from his peers. He used the same Telecaster for many years, playing it in stock form. At some point, he replaced the standard neck single coil with a humbucking pickup (which can be seen in the photo above).
Bickert made a few LPs with Rosemary Clooney and other well-known artists through the 1980s and 1990s, as well as leading his own sessions. Although he did not formally teach students in one-on-one lessons, Bickert was a well-known clinician and had many aspiring players attend his various workshops. Unfortunately, in the mid 1990s, a fall caused serious injuries to both of his arms. Bickert recovered, and continued to play and tour until his retirement in the early 2000s, after the death of his wife, Madeline.
Bickert and fellow jazz guitarist Lorne Lofsky won another Juno Award for the album This is New.
In 1996, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
- Ed Bickert (PM Records, 1976)
- At Toronto's Bourbon Street (1983)
- Bye Bye Baby (1983)
- I Wished On the Moon (1987)
- Third Floor Richard (1989)
- This is New (1990)
- Murley, Bickert & Wallace: Live at the Senator (2001)
- Murley, Bickert & Wallace: Test of Time (2012 - recorded in 1999)
With Paul Desmond
- Pure Desmond (CTI, 1975)
- Paul Desmond Quartet Live (Horizon 1975 )
With Rob McConnell
- Mutual Street (1982)
- The Jive 5 (1990)
With Don Thompson
- At The Garden Party (1979)
- At Last: Live in Toronto Canada 1976 (1976)
- Out of the Past (1976)