Ed Bickert, Jazz Guitarist, R.I.P.

Mar 7, 2019

Ed Bickert, the renowned Canadian-born guitarist who was a prominent figure on the Toronto jazz scene, died on February 28 at 86. I learned of Bickert through his great work with Paul Desmond on Pure Desmond (1975) and with Ruby Braff on the trumpeter's Sackville sessions in Toronto (1979), and took additional notice when Dave McKenna played on his 1989 release, Third Floor Richard. Through one of Ed's biggest fans, Doug MacMillan, I got turned on to almost everything he recorded and played all that time permitted in Jazz à la Mode. 

For the Ottowa Citizen's tribute to Bickert, Montreal jazz guitarist and Juno Award winner Mike Rud recalled that Bickert was the first jazz guitarist that he ever saw perform with Dizzy Gillespie and Moe Koffman, in the early 1980s.
“Jazz guitarists around the world rightly revere Ed Bickert,” Rud said. “But for Canadian jazz guitarists, I think he was the very voice of impeccable musical judgement — when to play, when not to. That’s before you even get to his chord approach, which was brand new, science-fiction level technology to all of us. Listening to his chord work, guitarists are left feeling like they are watching someone fill out the New York Times crossword puzzle, all perfectly correctly, and with many deeply satisfying, unexpected twists. Then in the next chorus, he erases all that, and fills it out all again with different, every-bit-as-perfect answers, over and over. Enchanting and infuriating. So much so that it’s easy to miss his single-note soloing, the sublime unfailingly swinging storytelling that made him an exquisite bandmate for Paul Desmond. All being done on a solid-body Telecaster, from which he coaxed a sound that would be the envy of any hollow-body player. I got to meet him a couple of times only, and play just a couple of tunes with him. I still play stuff I saw him play that day practically every single night. He was pleasant and soft-spoken. He’ll be more than missed.”

Here's the Ed Bickert Trio with Don Thompson and Terry Clarke playing Cole Porter's "Easy to Love."