A web page devoted to the Toronto big band led by Rob McConnell. The Boss Brass was formed in 1968 as a 16-piece band composed of the city's leading studio musicians to record arrangements of pop songs of the day for the Canadian Talent Library. It took its name from its instrumentation at that time -- trumpets, trombones, french horns, and a rhythm section. Having built a challenging and largely original repertoire of jazz compositions and arrangements by McConnell and band members Ian McDougall and Rick Wilkins, by the mid-1970s the Boss Brass had become the leading big band in Canada, and one of the finest in the world. (Note: the picture above is actually of Rob and his Tentet.)


Rob McConnell passed away May 1, 2010 at the age of 75. Here is the Canadian Press obituary:

TORONTO - Canadian jazz musician Rob McConnell, who led Toronto's jazz popular Boss Brass orchestra during his lauded career, has died of cancer. He was 75.

Rob McConnellThe London, Ont., native took up valve trombone in high school and began his career in 1954 in Edmonton, where he played with saxophonist Don Thompson.

He formed the Boss Brass in Toronto in 1968 and guided the group through the tremendous growth that occurred over the following years, including a Juno win in 1978 for their "Big Band Jazz" album.

It was one of five Juno Awards for McConnell.

He also won three Grammy Awards, was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.

Grammy organizers called McConnell "a true renaissance man in the genre of jazz."

"A trombonist, bandleader, composer/arranger, songwriter, and music educator, he wore many hats and all contributed to his great body of work and his unwavering devotion to the music he loved," said a statement from Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys.

"His sense of storytelling and humour infused his dynamic career, which will be remembered and appreciated for generations to come. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family, his friends, and all who have enjoyed his music."

THE BOSS BRASS -- Reunited in Toronto, Dec. 2008
Globe and Mail article


Fernando Gelbard has released three albums which he produced -- Boss Brass and Woods, Atras da Porta and Guido Basso (the last with alternate takes) -- on amazon.com, Itunes and all major digital stores. The first two contain some of the coolest performances by the Brass! You can listen to clips and download from amazon.com via the three widgets below:


Here is my very tiny Boss Brass FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

If you want to write to me, then click here. -- Mike Quigley

You can find Boss Brass CDs at amazon.com.



The Boss Brass (RCA CTLS-1105)
The first Boss Brass LP from 1968

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-44013)

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/Birchmount BM 872)

The Jazz Album 1976 (Attic LAT-1015)

Nobody Does It Better 1977-78 (CTL CTLS-5215/Phonodisc NV-5004)

Are Ya Dancin' Disco 1979 (CTL CTLS-5223/New Ventures NV-5008) Seriously!!

Trombone Rob ???? (CTL S5249 LP) (Not confirmed if this is a Boss Brass LP.)

Some of the above albums were recorded for The Canadian Talent Library in the 1970's. They consist of 2-3 minute cuts suitable for MOR radio play. If anyone has any info about more of these albums, please send e-mail.

Big Band Jazz 1977 (Umbrella UMB-DD4)

The Boss Brass Again! (Umbrella UMB-GEN 1-12)

Big Band Jazz is a direct-to-disc recording. The second Umbrella production was supposed to be direct-to-disc but technical problems prevented this. Instead, it was just issued as an audiophile LP.

These two recordings have been available on low-budget CDs in Canada (there are no liner notes).

According to pianist Jimmy Dale, who played on these recordings: "The Umbrella Direct-To-Disc album [Big Band Jazz] was recorded twice on disc, as they wanted two 'mothers' in case of a failure. However, both worked, and there are two different versions of this album, all different takes, both direct to disc. Doug Riley subbed for me on one of the sessions, and you will hear the difference on 'Just Friends'. They also ran audiotape on these sessions, and I believe that that is the source for later releases of these songs." This would explain the difference in tracks between the Canadian Trend CD release of this LP and the US Pausa CD release of the same thing.

Present Perfect 1979 (MPS 0068.249)

Reissued on CD (MPS 823 543-2) and as "2 Originals" (see below).

Tribute (PAUSA 7106)

Reissued on CD as "2 Originals" (see below).

Singers Unlimited with Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass 1978 (MPS 0068.238) The Singers Unlimited are another of my "favorite things" in the world of music. This album is a true "meeting of the minds" between Gene Puerling and Rob McConnell. This was also issued on CD and reissued more recently as part of a 7-CD box set of the Singers Unlimited (a must have!).

The Hi-Lo's - Back Again 1978 (MPS 0068.217) (??? BB's presence not confirmed)



Atras da Porta (MCA Impulse MCAD-42123) 1985

A very hard-to-find album which, as far as I can tell, was never released on CD in Canada (shame!). The opening arrangement of Easy to Love by Cole Porter is one of my favorite BB tracks. Incredible! Produced by Fernando Gelbard who did the Phil Woods album below, as well as a solo CD with Guido Basso. (LP release was on Innovation JC-0010.)

Big Band Jazz (Umbrella UMB CD-4)

Interestingly, this "reissue" of Big Band Jazz is not identical to the LP above. It consists of the same selections, but alternate takes. I suspect this was done in case the direct-to-disc version screwed up (as it did with "The Boss Brass Again").

The Boss Brass Again! (Umbrella UMB CD-12)

Boss Brass and Woods (MCA Impulse MCAD-5982)

Featuring guest Phil Woods on alto sax, this is an outstanding album from beginning to end! It was available in Canadian CD stores for about five minutes. (LP release was on Innovation JC-0011.)

Fernando Gelbard has sent along some photos from the recording sessions (all photos copyright ©1984 by Fernando Gelbard):

 1. Jerry Toth, Moe Koffman, Rick Wilkins
 Rob McConnell
 The Boss Brass
 Ed Bickert
 Phil Sheridan, Fernando Gelbard and Rob McConnell
 Terry Clarke
 Fernando Gelbard and Phil Woods
 Rob McConnell, Fernando Gelbard and Phil Woods
 Guido Basso, John McLeod and Arnie Chicoski
 Eugene Amaro and Jerry Toth
 Rob McConnell
 Rob McConnell

The Brass is Back (Concord Jazz CCD-4458)

Brassy and Sassy (Concord Jazz CCD-4508)

The Jazz Album (Attic ADCM 1015)

All in Good Time (Sea Breeze CD-SB-105)
(LP release was on Innovation JC-0006.)

Live in Digital (Sea Breeze CD-SB-106)

Our 25th Year (Concord Jazz CCD-4559)

Overtime (Concord Jazz CCD-4618)

Don't Get Around Much Anymore (Concord Jazz CCD-4661)

Even Canadians Get the Blues (Concord Jazz CCD-4722)

Play The Jazz Classics (Concord Jazz CCD-4722)

Big Band Christmas (Concord Jazz CCD-4844-2)

A great CD containing several traditional favorites and a couple of unusual items which sounds good any time of the year!

Two Originals

A reissue of Tribute and Present Perfect, which unfortunately omits two of the selections from the former! You can listen to them here: Peace/Blue Silver (by Blue Mitchell, based on Horace Silver's "Peace") and My Bells (Bill Evans).

Riffs I Have Known (Recall SMDCD267)

A 2-CD compilation of several Concord CDs issued in England by Snapper Music.


Rob McConnell Sextet -- Old Friends/New Music (Unisson DDA-1001)

This seems to have been released on LP and cassette only. It was recorded in 1984 and features McConnell, Guido Basso, Rick Wilkins, Ed Bickert, Steve Wallace and Terry Clarke.

Concord Jazz Festival (Concord Jazz CCD-4451)

Jive 5 (Concord Jazz CCD-4437)

Three for the Road (Concord Jazz CCD-4765-2)

Three for the Road features McConnell with Ed Bickert (guitar) and Don Thompson on bass and piano.

Mutual Street (Jazz Alliance TJA-10003) McConnell joins Boss Brass guitarist Ed Bickert in several standards.

The Boss of the Boss Brass (Duke Street DSBBD 31044) McConnell as soloist backed by an orchestra of strings and winds which he arranged. The woodwinds include Moe Koffman, Eugene Amaro, Alex Dean and there are solos by Guido Basso, Don Thompson, Ed Bickert and Rick Wilkins. Among the cellists is Ofra Harnoy!

Trio Sketches (Concord Jazz CCD-4591) McConnell joined by Ed Bickert, guitar, and Neil Swainson on bass.

Mel Tormé With the Boss Brass (Concord Jazz CCD-4306)

Mel Tormé -- Velvet & Brass (Concord Jazz CCD-4667)

Of the former, Tormé says "Making this record was one of the two or three greatest musical experiences in my long and checkered career."

Tentet (Justin Time JUST 150-2)

With this CD released in late 2000, McConnell suggests he has abandoned the large-scale Boss Brass and will be devoting himself to smaller groups like this one in the future. The members of this group are are P.J. Perry, Alex Dean and Mike Murley (saxophones); Guido Basso and Steve McDade (trumpets), Terry Promane and Rob McConnell (trombones), Steve Wallace (bass), Dave Restivo (piano) and Terry Clarke (drums).

Thank You, Ted (Justin Time JUST 173-2)

Music of the Twenties (Justin Time JUST 196-2)

Rob McConnell and the SWR Big Band: "So Very Rob" (Boss Brass Revisited) (Hanssler LC 10622)

Rob McConnell & Big Band Brass: "Live with the Boss" (Black & Blue BB 665.2)

Recorded in 2001 at a French jazz festival with a local band.


Rob McConnell is on some CD which also features Manny Albam. Here are pictures of the front and back of this CD.

Rob is also on a CD entitled NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL: THE HAGUE YEARS (Netherlands Worldwide). This CD is part of a box set which is only available to radio stations.

  1. MOVE (Denzil Best, arr John Lewis)
  2. ALONE TOGETHER (Howard Dietz, Arthur Schwartz)
Recorded 7/11/1992 at The North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague The Netherlands.
THE GERRY MULLIGAN TENTET: Art Farmer (flug); Michael Mossman (tpt); Rob McConnell (vtb); Bobby Routch (frh); Bill Barber (tba); Kenneth Solderholm (cl); Lee Konitz (as); Gerry Mulligan (bs); Ted Rosenthal (p); Dean Johnson (b); Ron Vincent (dr).


Fraser MacPherson Quintet featuring Ian McDougall -- In the Tradition (Concord Jazz CCD-4506)

The late tenor sax player Fraser MacPherson was one of the stalwarts of the Vancouver music scene.

Ian McDougall has his own web site -- http://www.ianmcdougall.com/

Ian McDougall -- The Warmth of the Horn (Concord Jazz CCD-4652)

Ian McDougall -- Songs and Arias

This 2-CD set features McDougall playing jazz with Ron Johnston on one CD, and famous arias (many from operas) accompanied by Robert Holliston on the second.

Ian McDougall Sextet -- Dry with a Twist (Barbarian CDM02)

Contains "Ian Leaps Out" which is covered by Rob McConnell on his Tentet CD (see above).

The Brass Connection (Innovation Records JC-0003G)

Features Ian McDougall (arranged 3 of 8 cuts), Doug Hamilton, Jerry Johnson, Bob Livingston and John Capon on trombones. Rhythm section consists of Lorne Lofsky (guitar), Frank Falco (piano), Dave Young (bass), Terry Clarke (drums) and Don Thompson (vibes, bass and piano). Only released on LP as far as I can determine.

The Brass Connection -- A Five Star Edition (The Jazz Alliance TJA-10002)

Features Ian McDougall (arranged 4 of 8 cuts), Bill Watrous, Bob Livingston, Jerry Johnson, Doug "Doc" Hamilton and Ernie Pattison on trombones.

The Brass Connection -- Standards (The Jazz Alliance TJA-10014)

Features Ian McDougall, Bob Livingston, Jerry Johnson, Doug "Doc" Hamilton and John Capon on trombones.

Sammy Nestico -- Night Flight (Sea Breeze CD-SB-103)

Produced by veteran arranger Nestico, this CD features 8 cuts including several members of the BB (not McConnell), and 4 more with Hollywood studio musicians including Conte Candoli, Bill Watrous, Tommy Newsom, Louie Bellson, Pete Jolly and Bob Bain.

Oliver Jones -- From Lush to Lively (Justin Time JUST73-2)

An outstanding CD, featuring Montreal pianist Oliver Jones. The arrangements are by BB sax player Rick Wilkins. Numerous members of the BB are in the band behind Jones in the "lively" selections. The "lush" ones feature an ensemble of strings including the Moreney String Quartet.

Guido Basso (Innovation Records JCCD-0014)

In this CD produced by Fernando Gelbard, Basso is joined by Franjk Collett, piano; Andy Simpkins, bass; and Terry Clarke, drums. Recorded in 1986 in Hollywood.