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Three Ed Bickert Gems Easily Overlooked

Joe Barth

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Ed Bickert is known for his velvety tone and sophisticated chord voicings on his old Telecaster guitar through a Polytone amp.

Referred to as “the Canadian Jim Hall,” Ed is one of the jazz guitar greats all on his own.When Paul Desmond called Ed to play on hisPure Desmond and the album later won a Grammy award, Ed’s reputation suddenly got much larger. Here are three overlooked albums where I believe Ed does some of his best playing.

Trio Sketches,Ed Bickert: guitar; Rob McConnell: trombone; Neil Swainson: bass;1994

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Ed has a long history playing in Rob McConnell’s big band The Boss Brass.Here the three musicians give each other room to stretch out a bit.First is my favorite rendition of “Snow White” where during the trombone solo Neil’s bass drops out allowing Ed to lay a wonderful pad of tasteful comping. Later in the song, McConnell and Bickert trade solos and they seem to finish each other’s phrases.Another high point is “I Have Dreamed” where there is an enchanting oneness between the three musicians.I could go on commenting in the same way about all ten tunes on the album.

Rosemary Clooney’sSings Ballads: 1985Ed Bickert: guitar; Rosemary Clooney: vocals; Scott Hamilton: tenor sax; Jake Hanna: drums; Chuck Israels: bass; John Oddo: piano; Warren Vache’ cornet 1986

I believe some of Ed Bickert’s best playing was with Rosemary Clooney.Ed’s solo comping begins the opening “Thanks for the Memory” On “Here’s That Rainy Day” Ed lays out until his tasteful solo comes in mid-song. “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” is a beautiful duet between Ed’s guitar and Rosemary’s voice. This is the same approach for “Spring is Here” later on the album. The same duo is used for the first chorus of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” before the rest of the band comes in.My favorite is “Days of Wine and Roses” where Ed’s solo seems to lyrically soar.He is my reference point every time I solo over that tune. Great singing, great guitar playing as well as fine ensemble work from everyone on all ten tunes on this recording.

This Is New:Ed Bickert and Lorne Lofsky: guitar; Jerry Fuller: drums; Neil Swainson: bass;1990

The album begins with a fiery rendition of the title track.Both Ed’s and Lorne’s tone and approach complement each other.The beautiful waltz “Elsa” follows with the same deep dark tones.Wes Montgomery would have loved their take on “Twisted Blues.”Ed’s rich voicings shine in the ballad “Maybe You’ll Be There.”I love the interweaving counterpoint between Ed and Lorne’s guitar lines on “Ah-Leu-Cha” as they elegantly burn through those rhythm changes.All in all, there are twelve gems performed by this all-star group.

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