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This project was made possible by funding through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy and the Heritage Policy Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Canadian Heritage

Rob McConnell

Biography

ROBERT (ROB) McCONNELL (valve trombonist, bandleader, composer, arranger, music educator) was born February 14, 1935 in London, Ontario, Canada, and died on May 1, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. The valve trombone master and brilliant arranger formed his beloved The Boss Brass big band in 1968. With a challenging repertoire of jazz compositions and arrangements by McConnell and other skilled band members, Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass would soon become the leading big band in Canada and ultimately, among the finest jazz bands in the world. Always a band of soloists and leaders in their own right, the Grammy Award-winning Boss Brass has comprised a ‘who’s who’ of jazz luminaries and recorded with an awe-inspiring list of artists including Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Singers Unlimited, and Oscar Peterson throughout its legendary lifespan.

McConnell grew up in Toronto, and made a brief foray into a financial career, working for a brokerage firm for three years, but soon resumed his musical calling, working first as a pianist before settling into playing valve trombone exclusively. It was when he went to Edmonton to play in a band led by saxophonist Don (D.T.) Thompson that McConnell’s music career really got started. In the pre-Brass years, Rob became one of the busiest studio musicians in Toronto, playing, arranging, and composing non-stop. In 1964, he joined fellow Canadian Maynard Ferguson’s New York band, returning to Toronto later that year, and the beginning of a four-year stint with the Phil Nimmons-led Nimmons ‘n’ Nine Plus Six.

McConnell has led a number of smaller ensembles during his career, always incorporating the talents of the most venerated musicians including Guido Basso, Rick Wilkins, Ian McDougall, and always, the great guitarist Ed Bickert. He did considerable solo work, too, appearing by invitation at important American festivals including the prestigious Concord (California) Jazz Festival in 1990. He formed his fiery The Rob McConnell Tentet in 1997, featuring a number of the charter members of The Boss Brass, but also showcasing the techniques of some of the best young players on the current jazz scene. But it was through his leadership of The Boss Brass that McConnell’s place as one of Canada’s most highly regarded musical artists was assured for all time.

McConnell reunited many members of the Boss Brass for 3 sold-out “Sound of Toronto” jazz concerts in December 2008.

AWARDS
Rob McConnell has been nominated for a total of 17 Grammy Awards, winning three times.
1978 - Juno Award for Best Jazz Album to Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass for Big Band Jazz'
1981 - Juno Award for Best Jazz Album to Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass for Present Perfect
1983 – Grammy Award Winner as an artist
1984 - Juno Award for Best Jazz Album to Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass for All in Good Time
1986 - Awarded Honorary D LITT (St. Francis Xavier University)
1992 – Winner of a Grammy Award as an arranger
1992 - Juno Award for Best Jazz Album to Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass for The Brass is Back
1995 – Winner of a Grammy Award as an arranger
1996 - Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (also known as the Juno Hall of Fame) for lifetime achievement in music
1997 - Awarded the Prix Oscar Peterson, established by the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal to recognize Canadian jazz musicians of distinction
1998 - Named an Officer of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour given in this country, granted to Canadian citizens 'for outstanding achievement and service to the country or to humanity at large'
2001 - Juno Award for Best Traditional Jazz Album to the Rob McConnell Tentet for Rob McConnell Tentet
2004 - National Jazz Awards Winner as 'Trombonist of the Year'
2004 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Arranger of the Year'
2004 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Big Band of the Year' (The Rob McConnell Tentet)
2005 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Big Band of the Year' (The Rob McConnell Tentet)
2006 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Big Band of the Year' (The Rob McConnell Tentet)
2006 - National Jazz Awards winner as 'Trombonist of the Year'