Its itinerary of public performances nevertheless has been limited. It played occasional engagements during the 1970s and 1980s in Toronto clubs (eg, Colonial Tavern, Basin Street, El Mocambo, Bourbon Street, the BamBoo), at Ontario Place and, as part of the city's du Maurier jazz festivals, Roy Thomson Hall. In 1984 it appeared at Massey Hall with the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra in a symphonic-jazz program of commissioned works by McConnell, McDougall, Wilkins, Louis Applebaum, Victor Davies, and Harry Freedman.
The Boss Brass made its US debut in 1981 at the Monterey Jazz Festival in California and performed in Hackensack, NJ, with the singer Mel Tormé in 1983, on tour in California in 1984, at the Concord (Cal) and Mt Hood (Ore) jazz festivals in 1984, and at the Playboy Jazz Festival with Tormé in 1986. It also gave annual concerts 1983-8 at McComb College, Mount Clemens, Mich. After a hiatus 1988-90, the Boss Brass resumed its club and concert schedule as before. The orchestra's name has been carried much further afield on record. The Boss Brass won a (US) Grammy Award in 1984 for best jazz big band recording (All in Good Time) and had Grammy nominations in similar categories annually 1978-80 and again in 1982. It received Juno awards for best jazz album in 1978 (Big Band Jazz), 1981 (Present Perfect), and 1984 (All in Good Time).
In a review of the orchestra's performance with Tormé in Hackensack, NJ, Stephen Holden noted, McConnell's 'elaborately chromatic band charts feature richly harmonized brass choirs that break into occasional mild dissonance. Although this full orchestra style became the springboard for several superb soloists, the band's extraordinary ensemble sound outshone any individual voice... [it] performed with the focused intensity and tonal clarity of a great symphony orchestra (New York Times, 19 Jan 1983). McDougall, Wilkins, Eugene Amaro, Guido Basso, Ed Bickert, Jimmy Dale, Moe Koffman, John MacLeod, Sam Noto, Don Thompson, and Jerry Toth have been among the band's featured jazz soloists.
The Boss Brass. 1968. CTL 477-5015/RCA CTLS-1015
Boss Brass Two. 1969. CTL 477-5118/RCA CTLS-1118
The Sound of the Boss Brass. 1970. CBC LM-73
Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. 1971. CTL 477-5143. Reissued as Down to Brass Tacks. Pickwick PC-40013
Rob: Rob McConnell's Boss Brass 4. 1972. CTL 477-5159. Reissued as Odds and Ends. Pickwick PC-44007
The Best Damn Band in the Land. 1974. CTL CTLS-5182/U Artists UALA-309G
The Jazz Album. 1976. Attic LAT-1015
Big Band Jazz. 1977. 2-Umbrella UMB-DD4
Nobody Does It Better. 1977-8. CTL CTLS-5215/Phonodisc NV-5004
Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass Again! 1978. 2-Umbrella UMB-GEN-1-12
The Hi-Lo's - Back Again. 1978. MPS 0068.217
Singers Unlimited with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. 1978. MPS 0068.238
Present Perfect. 1979. MPS 0068.249
Are Ya Dancin' Disco. 1979. CTL CTLS-5223/New Ventures NV-5008
All in Good Time. 1983. Innovation JC-0006
Atras da Porta. 1983. Innovation JC-0010
Boss Brass and Woods. 1985. Innovation JC-0011
Mel Tormé Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass. 1986. Concord Jazz CJ-306
The Brass is Back. 1991. Concord Jazz CCD-4458
Batten, Jack. 'Some big talk about big bands,' Toronto Daily Star, 11 Jan 1969
Canadian Jazz Discography
Boogie Pete & The Senator
Links to Other Sites
Rob McConnell Tentet
Dedicated to the Rob McConnell Tentet. From Justin Time Records.
International Trumpet Guild
A great site for trumpet aficionados. Features news about programs, competitions, concerts and other events. Also offers a youth section and an extensive online archive of articles from the “International Trumpet Guild Journal.”
The Toronto Musicians' Association
The website for the Toronto Musicians' Association, an organization that represents professional musicians in all facets of music in the greater Toronto area. Click on "Multimedia" to access online music videos.
A biography of award-winning jazz saxophonist Alex Dean. From the Canadian Jazz Archive.