Ed Bickert (1932-)
Canadian Jazz Guitarist Ed Bickert established himself as one of the top (if not THE top) Toronto studio and jazz guitarist in the 60's. He was fortunate enough to play with touring US jazzmen that came to Toronto and were willing to use the "house" rhythm section.
experience with world top jazzmen was surely formative enough to
soon propel him onto the international jazz scene. For this to happen
to someone who lived in
Toronto (and raised a family) at that time is rather
rare... even impossible!
career "launch" probably happened when Ed Bickert was recommend to the great Paul
Desmond ... by Jim Hall ! Jim surely new
that Ed could be the perfect accompanist for the legendary
saxophonist's band. (Ed and Jim were friends.)
Bickert worked with Desmond from the mid seventies : they recorded a
few albums notably " Paul
Desmond Quartet Live" and "Pure Desmond" . The later was
recorded in the US with Ron Carter on bass!
bad for a little Canadian cowboy!
After gaining international visibility, Ed Bickert performed with
renowned jazz artists and led his own band. His career owed him to be a
Member of Order of Canada (a very high distinction).
Harmonic Prowess !
While Bickert is a real "jazz guitar hero" to many guitarists old and
young, he never got the
attention he deserved. That is mainly because he never
lived in NY or in the States... as most of his contemporaries did.
Addendum : Ed's first trio record called simply called "Ed Bickert" is the recording that exposed him to a wider audience.
Unfortunately, he stopped playing in the early 21st century.
He influenced many other Canadian and American guitarists namely Ted Greene (who
also plays a tele by the way!)
On a personal note : one of my teachers got in touch with Ed many times
and harassed him to get a private lesson. The answer was always "NO!"
... on the other hand, Bickert was a fantastic clinician.
Gear and Playing Style
creativity and taste is unprecedented on the instrument. His harmonic
concept really makes him the perfect accompanist for jazz in any
context (duo, trio, quartet, etc.)
He obviously used an hybrid
technique of pick and fingers to achieve maximum clarity
in his chords introductions, self accompaniments, chord solos and
you want to know how to comp behind
singers/horns/bassists, listen to him!
Bickert's round, well
voiced chords , progressions and harmonic genius
(passing chords, counterpoint, deceptive cadences, etc.) are really
what distinguishes him : only a few notes suffice to
identify when he's playing.
In the process of transcribing his music, I noticed that some of his
3-part voicings have much "bigger" implications : I could sometimes hear the other notes he didn't play (he "implied" them with
less notes!) Talk about as master of harmony ...
On the gear
level : he used a solid body guitar; probably why the
chords he played sounded so rich and full. In fact, it seems he played
mostly on a creamy yellow worn-out Fender Telecaster.
(Although I saw him with an archtop in his early years, thanks to
I am still unsure of the amplifiers he used. From what I heard, he
doesn't like Fender amps. When he gave a clinic in Montreal in the
1990's he said " Give me
anything but a Fender amp! "
Amps Addendum : quoting directly a friend of mine, the great guitarist Steve Raegele : "I've seen Ed Bickert play probably 10-15 times over the years, and for the longest time it was an orange Roland Cube. In the late 90s, he got an Evans amp that sounded really good."