Ed Bickert Profile

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The greatest jazz guitarist you've never heard

ed bickert canadian jazz guitarist

Though he achieved a certain amount of fame from his recordings with Paul Desmond, Milt Jackson, Oscar Peterson, and Stanley Turrentine, Canadian jazz guitarist Ed Bickert (read Bickert's bio on Wikipedia) is still generally unrecognized as the phenomenon he is. Eschewing New York City, Bickert spent his entire recording career in Canada, thus didn't get the media attention contemporaries like Jim Hall did.

One of the many charms of Ed Bickert's guitar playing is that he can be enjoyed on so many levels. Bickert provides music that is seemingly simple, yet decievingly complex - an emalgamation of swing and bop-based lines, tonicization, moving inner voices, chord substitution, and more.

Entire courses in music schools could be devoted to Bickert's use of passing chords, contrary motion, and deceptive resolution within his chord solos. Many of the voicings Bickert uses just don't get used by a lot of other guitarists, save perhaps in the music of fellow Canadian jazz guitarist Lenny Breau. In an age where, 40 years after the death of Wes Montgomery, most guitarists are still resorting to Wes' block-chord voicings in their solos, Bickert's more intricate approach to this style of playing is refreshing.

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An example of Ed Bickert's harmonic approach

Ed Bickert Never Stop Loving You transcription clip

Listen to an mp3 of Ed Bickert playing this passage

The short transcription above is of Ed Bickert playing "I'll Never Stop Loving You" from his 1985 album I Wished on the Moon. The chords in black are the actual chords in the song, while the chords in red are those Bickert is super-imposing over the chord progression. This should give you a taste of Bickert's extensive use of passing chords.

If a guitarist exists with a stronger command of "chordal playing" than Ed Bickert, I am not aware of him. Many of Bickert's chord voicings are tricky, and can only be played in one particular area on the neck in order to be logistically possible. In beginning the process of transcribing some of Bickert's music, I was immediately struck by his ability to imply four, five, or six-part chords with three-note voicings. After repeated listenings to numerous passages, I finally came to the conclusion that the fourth note I was often hearing in Bickert's chord voicings wasn't actually being played - it was simply being implied.

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A transcription of an Ed Bickert solo

At the heart of Ed Bickert's style is one of the fundamental jazz concepts - tension and release. I've heard from people who have listened to Bickert's music and pronounced it "tension-free"... I've even heard the phrase "easy listening".

These are wildly misguided proclamations. The truth is Bickert's command of harmony is so masterful, he has resolved much of the tension he creates before people realize there was ever dissonance.

If you'd learn more about Ed Bickert, the best way to go about doing it is to dive right in and study one of his solos. The following is a transcription (sorry, standard notation only... no tab) of Ed Bickert's introduction and solo on "Everything I Love", featured on the terrific Paul Desmond record Pure Desmond (1975).

Everything I Love

Ed Bickert intro/solo transcription (pdf) | Intro MP3 | Solo MP3