Watch a 1981 video of Rob Mcconnell & The Boss Brass at Howard Rumsey’s Concerts by the Sea. From YouTube.
Throughout his career, McConnell also led small jazz groups with guitarist Ed Bickert as a constant in the rhythm section and Guido Basso, Ian McDougall, and Rick Wilkins variously on the front-line. McConnell appeared as a soloist in similar settings at several US festivals, including the 1990 Concord (California) Jazz Festival. It was through his leadership of the Boss Brass, however, that McConnell emerged in the 1980s as one of the major Canadian jazz musicians on the world stage. His orchestral writing and valve trombone playing were complementary opposites: the former was subtle, controlled, ambitious, and occasionally whimsical, and the latter, brash, vigorous, and often broadly humorous.
In 1997 McConnell reorganized the Boss Brass into a tentet, emphasizing the instrumental talents of some of Toronto's best younger players, like pianist Dave Restivo and saxophonist Mike Murley. The band's first recording, Tentet (Justin Time), won a Juno Award in 2001.
Concurrent with the downturn in studio work in Toronto during the early 1980s, and as a result of the frequency with which stagebands played his arrangements (including the eight compositions on All in Good Time, all published by Jenson), McConnell became increasingly active in the USA, Canada, and Europe as a clinician. He taught 1988-9 at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles.
The celebrated 16-piece (later 22-piece) Boss Brass recorded extensively for several labels, including the high-profile Concord Jazz. McConnell was also featured as leader on several small-group recordings for Concord. His tentet was also prolific, releasing three recordings 2000-3. In 2002 McConnell also released two big band recordings, Riffs I Have Known (Recall) and Live With the Boss (Black & Blue).
As a trombonist, McConnell appeared on recordings by a number of artists, including Nimmons 'n' Nine Plus Six, singers Mel Tormé and Dave Frishberg, vibraphonist Peter Appleyard, and pianist Oliver Jones.
McConnell was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997. He won US Grammy awards in 1983 (as an artist), 1992, and 1995 (both as an arranger). He also won several Canadian National Jazz Awards.
The Boss of the Boss Brass. Orch, Basso flhn, Wilkins tenor saxophone, Thompson piano, Bickert guitar. (1988). Duke Street DSR-31044
Others with the Boss Brass; also several CBC broadcast recordings
Dave Frishberg Let's Eat Home. 1989. Concord Jazz CCD-4402
Concord 'all stars' Live at the 1990 Concord Jazz Festival: First Set. 1990. Concord Jazz CCD-4451
Bob Florence The Bob Florence Limited Edition Treasure Chest. 1990. US Music Group USCD-680
Others with Basso, Ferguson, Nimmons, and Moe Koffman, and various pop sessions. See Canadian Jazz Discography.
Author James Hale
Batten, Jack. 'Some big talk about big bands,' Toronto Daily Star, 11 Jan 1969
Dampier, Bill. 'Rob McConnell: meet the boss of the Boss Brass,' Sound, vol 2, Aug 1971
'McConnell: jazz is not commercial,' CanComp, 67, Feb 1972
Levitch, Gerald. 'Boss Brassman Rob McConnell: musician, arranger, composer, band leader,' CanComp, 117, Jan 1977
Miller, Mark. 'Rob McConnell: boss of the brass,' Down Beat, Jun 1983
- 'Brass boss switches tempo,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 4 Nov 1985
Barris, Alex. 'Laughter from the soul,' The Jazz Report, winter 2000
Miller, Mark. The Miller Companion to Jazz in Canada (Toronto 2001)
Boogie, Pete & The Senator
Links to Other Sites
Rob McConnell Tentet
Dedicated to the Rob McConnell Tentet. From Justin Time Records.
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.
Rob McConnell, 75: Jazz star made ‘thrilling’ music
An obituary for award-winning Canadian jazz icon Rob McConnell. From thestar.com.
Rob Mcconnell & The Boss Brass
Watch a 1981 video of Rob Mcconnell & The Boss Brass at Howard Rumsey's Concerts by the Sea. From YouTube.