Robert Murray Gordon "Rob" McConnell, OC (14 February 1935 – 1 May 2010) was a Canadian jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger. McConnell is best known for establishing and leading the big band The Boss Brass, which he directed from 1967 to 1999.
McConnell was born in London, Ontario and took up the valve trombone in high school. He began his performing career in the early 1950s, performing and studying with Clifford Brown, Don Thompson, Bobby Gimby, and later with fellow Canadian Maynard Ferguson. He also studied music theory with Gordon Delamont. In 1968 he formed The Boss Brass, a big band that became his primary performing and recording unit through the 1970s and 1980s.
McConnell assembled the original Boss Brass from Toronto studio musicians. The instrumentation of the band was originally 16 pieces, consisting of trumpets, trombones, french horns and a rhythm section, but no saxophones. McConnell introduced a saxophone section in 1970, and expanded the trumpet section to include a fifth trumpet in 1976, bringing the total to 22 members.
In 1988, McConnell took a teaching position at the Dick Grove School of Music in California, but gave up his position and returned to Canada a year later. In 1997, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and in 1998 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He remained active throughout the 2000s, touring internationally as both a performer and educator, running music clinics around the world and performing as a leader and a guest artist. The Rob McConnell Tentet, a scaled-down version of the Boss Brass featuring many Boss Brass alumni, has been quite successful; it has recorded three major albums, The Rob McConnell Tentet (2000), Thank You, Ted (2002), and Music of the Twenties (2003).
Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass became one of Canada's most popular jazz ensembles, performing live and recording for California's Concord Jazz label and a variety of others. Mel Tormé said of his first recording session with the Boss Brass in 1987, "Making this record was one of the two or three greatest musical experiences in my long and checkered career." He died on May 1, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, aged 75, from liver cancer.
- Complete Quebec City Jam Session July 28, 1955 (2009) (a Clifford Brown recording)
The Boss Brass
Canadian Talent Library
- The Boss Brass (1968)
- Boss Brass Two (1969)
- On a Cool Day (1971)
- Rob McConnell's Boss Brass 4 (1972)
- The Best Damn Band in the Land (1974)
- Nobody Does It Better (1977)
- Are Ya Dancin' Disco? (1979)
- The Jazz Album (1976)
- Big Band Jazz (1978)
- Again! (1978)
- Singers Unlimited with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass (1978)
- Live in Digital (1980)
- Tribute (1980)
- Present Perfect (1981)
- All in Good Time (1982)
- Atras Da Porta (1983)
- Boss Brass and Woods (1985)
- Mel Tormé, Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass (1987)
- The Brass Is Back (1991)
- Brassy and Sassy (1992)
- Our 25th Year (1993)
- Overtime (1994)
- Don't Get Around Much Anymore (1995)
- Velvet and Brass (1995)
- Even Canadians Get the Blues (1996)
- Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass Play the Jazz Classics (1997)
- Big Band Christmas (1998)
- Mutual Street (1984)
- Old Friends, New Music (1984)
- The Boss of the Boss Brass (1988)
- The Rob McConnell Jive 5 (1990)
- Manny Albam, Rob McConnell and the SDR Big Band (1993)
- Three for the Road (1997)
- Rob McConnell Tentet (2000)
- Live with the Boss (2001)
- Thank You, Ted (2002)
- Music of the Twenties (2003)
- So Very Rob (2003)
- Clifford Brown and a 20 year-old Rob McConnell played a jam session in Quebec City on June 28th, 1955. Six cuts can be found on Clifford Brown, "Complete Quebec City Jam Session," released on audio CD in 2009. Around the same time Brown apparently made a "home recording" with McConnell of 'Strike up the Band,' but this recording, while shared on the internet, has not been commercially released.