Obituaries, Feb. 16, 2023
Guido Basso, a jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader long recognised as a key figure in Canadian jazz, died on Feb. 13, at age 85, of natural causes.
By Kerry Doole
Guido Basso, a jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger and bandleader long recognised as a key figure in Canadian jazz, died on Feb. 13, at age 85, of natural causes.
JAZZFM terms Basso "a masterful musician who for decades was a distinguished pillar of Canada’s jazz scene. He was a champion of big band music, leading jazz orchestras for live concerts and TV and radio programs throughout a career of more than 65 years that spanned eight decades.
As a trumpeter and flugelhornist, Basso was a charter member of Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass who played for the band for more than 20 years. He worked as a musical director for numerous CBC programs, and he led big band concerts in Toronto with legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington."
Montreal-born, Basso began playing the trumpet at the age of nine. He studied at the Conservatoire de musique du Quebec à Montreal, and in his teens, under the name “Stubby” Basso, he worked in dance and show bands led by Al Nichols, Maury Kaye and others. Singer Vic Damone noticed his talent and took him on the road, and Basso then went on to work throughout North America with singer Pearl Bailey and the orchestra led by her husband, drummer Louis Bellson, in the late ’50s.
In 1960, Basso settled in Toronto and became a first-call studio musician as a trumpeter and bandleader. Over the next two decades, he was the music director for CBLT’s Nightcap, CBC TV’s Barris and Company and CBC Radio’s After Noon, and he led orchestras for the CBC television series In the Mood and Bandwagon. In 1975, Basso began organizing and leading big-band concerts at the Canadian National Exhibition featuring some of the greatest names in jazz.
Throughout his career, Basso continued to perform in Toronto with his own small groups and was a prominent soloist with the Boss Brass, the Rob McConnell Tentet, Nimmons ‘N’ Nine Plus Six, and the big bands of Ron Collier and others. The 22-piece Boss Brass, formed in 1968, won three Grammy Awards and three Junos over 17 albums during the 1970s and ’80s.
In the ’70s Basso organized Toronto big band gigs featuring such jazz luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, and more.
He was in great demand as a session musician, and his fluent playing can be heard on over 200 albums, including releases by Anne Murray, Ian Tyson, Holly Cole, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Mel Tormé, Monkey House, Michele Mele, Chantal Chamberland, Luis Mario Ochoa, and many more.
A Toronto Star obituary noted that "Basso was known for the lyricism of his flugelhorn work on jazz ballads, a reputation taken far afield by his recordings with the Boss Brass, and was equally capable of incisive trumpeting in the bebop style. He was credited with the theory that one attacks the trumpet and makes love to a flugelhorn."
Individually, Basso won a Juno for Traditional Jazz Album of the Year in 2004, for Lost In The Stars. He was also a nominee in that same category that year alongside Joey DeFrancesco, Lorne Lofsky, and Vito Rezza in the star-studded ensemble One Take, nominated for the One Take, Vol. 1 album. In 2003, Basso and Doug Riley released a critically-acclaimed duo album, Lazy Afternoon, on Justin Time.
Basso was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.
Guido Basso was long one of the most respected and loved veterans of the Toronto jazz music community, as the response to the news of his passing has reaffirmed. Peers, bandmates and colleagues took to social media to pay tribute, and FYI also obtained comments from others. Here's a selection.
Roberto Occhipinti to FYI: "Guido was the consummate musician, every solo he played was a fresh universe of ideas, played with impeccable taste and unerring logic. Guido is a legend in the Jazz world, as one of the greatest flugelhorn players. I remember doing some recording sessions in the 90's with some first-call studio players from LA and the first question they asked was 'do you know Guido Basso?' and is he playing somewhere?' Of course, I got immediate credibility by the fact that I had played with him. It didn't do much for his reputation but it certainly enhanced mine. His recorded legacy speaks for itself, his playing reflected the man, and the man reflected the music. He will be missed but certainly not forgotten. Ciao Fratello."
Peter Cardinali to FYI: "I’m so grateful and honoured to have known Guido all these years, and extremely saddened that he has left us. That sweet, beautiful tone was immediately recognizable without a doubt, and his solos were always straight from the heart to his horn. Just like Miles, Toots, Herbie, and Oscar, one only needed to say Guido.
I have so many fond memories and stories of playing and hangin’ with Guido, during and after sessions. One that sticks out – the first time Guido and Joey DeFrancesco met and played together was on Volume One of a new series I started called One Take. Lorne Lofsky and Vito Rezza were also in that band. My Romance was first up. Guido played such a beautiful solo that after playback, Joey, who played with Miles at age 16, and was a great trumpet player in his own right, walked up to Guido, bowed, and said “I’m never playing that thing again”.
Last January, John Bailey and I went out to “the farm” (Kristen and Guido’s home in Prince Edward County) to record a solo for the Monkey House record we were working on. We played, told old stories, laughed, had a few drinks, played some more, then had dinner and headed home. That’s how I want to remember Guido. I will cherish that day for the rest of my life.
Laila Biali on FB: "Rest in peace, Guido Basso – friend and pillar of the Jazz community. The brilliance you brought to this world through music and spirit will live on forever."
Don Breithaupt on FB: "Farewell to Guido Basso, whose incredible taste, sweet sound, lovely disposition and legendary generosity will outlive him many times over. I was one of the lucky ones who got to work with him on stages and in studios over the years. He was a world-class improviser and a fearless leader. It was Guido who placed the fateful last-minute call to me when Aretha Franklin was looking for a keyboard player back in September 2010.
More recently, Guido played flugelhorn on Ever Since the World Ended on the most recent Monkey House album, in what a friend has suggested to me may be his last recorded performance. A great spirit has flown. Goodbye, Guido — it was my utmost privilege to have known you."
Bill King to FYI: "Like anyone who has ever crossed paths, I loved the man. I recently watched footage of Guido with his big band, and he’s a gem, a brilliant artist and the most creative in life. We had many chats in the lobby of Manta Sound, as each went in a different direction. Always the big laugh and class. That forest of studio giants is now wilderness again. The tall trees have perished and given over to concrete and diminished returns. Guido and his brothers brought the music to lower Toronto. East 85th Street, Bourbon Street, George’s Spaghetti House, the Colonial Tavern, Top of the Senator, and the Montreal Bistro. The crowds responded enthusiastically. We once had a jazz scene, a vibrant scene. One that scribes wrote about in their daily dispatches."
George Koller on FB: "The music world was infinitely blessed to have maestro Guido Basso (C.M.)All I can do is share a few photo memories and reflect on the wonderful laughs, brilliant music, his uniqueness and edge and strength and tone and focus and human warmth. Love to Kristin. His melodies and inventions and musical storytelling resonate forever.."
Luis Mario Ochoa on FB: "Devastating news -both musically and sentimentally- the loss of the great Guido Basso, the very complementing and perfect soloist of the marvelous Boss Brass. It was such a blessing knowing you, always being so kind and generous to me since the first day we met.
Guido extended his helping hand when I needed it the most, and he barely knew me. It's very hard for an unknown Latin musician that spoke very little English, to get gigs outside their own very small communities in Toronto in the 90s, but then I met Guido and all of the sudden I was working very well paid gigs. There is no better help from a friend than to offer you work when you need it most. Then he accepted to play in the only song I recorded with my dad, and, like always, he played like the GODS... I will be forever grateful for your kindness and advice. Until we meet again mio caro Guido. A warm hug and a kiss wherever your beautiful soul is flying to now. Thank you for everything you did for me."
Adrean Farrugia on FB: "I only had a handful of opportunities to play music with this master but he made a very lasting impression. In particular, when I was 20 years old, I had the opportunity to play at the IAJE conference in NYC with the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band (a youth big band) with Guido as our special guest. I remember during soundcheck I was quietly working on the Johnny Mandel standard Emily. Suddenly I heard the most beautiful flugelhorn sound join in and we played several choruses of the song together. Then afterward he sat with me for what felt like a long while and gave me pointers on melody, comping, how to groove, and told me a few cool stories about the many greats he’d played with.
"I don’t know if he ever truly knew what an impact he had on the trajectory of my entire career, just because of those moments he spent with me making me feel truly seen and special. He was a generous and loving man who was truly larger than life, and he lit up every room that he walked into. That’s who Guido Basso was to me. Thank you Guido and rest in peace."
Chase Sanborn on YouTube: "With the passing of flugelhornist Guido Basso, I have lost a friend and the world has lost a musical artist of the highest calibre."
Ross Wooldridge on FB: "RIP Guido Basso - you were someone I was proud to call a friend, thrilled to play music with, and always was staggered by your musicianship. Today I am shedding tears - tears of sadness for the loss, tears of thankfulness for the joy you created, and tears of gratitude for the opportunities I had to share music with you. I wish there had been one more time. I will miss you."
Collette Savard on FB: "This is a personal sadness for me who had the great privilege of having him play on my first album as a complete unknown. He lived in the building where I made the album with my former husband. I ran into him a few times over the years and he commented a couple of times on my posts here on FB. He was always effusive in his compliments. There were times in my darkest days of musical obscurity when the thought of his praise kept me from giving up. There was no one like him and never will there be. RIP Guido."
Sources: Justin Time, JazzFM, Toronto Star, Facebook
Mendelson Joe ((born Birrel Josef Mendelson). As reported here in FYI last week, the irascible Canadian musician and painter died on Feb. 7, at age 78.
On his website, Joe posted a farewell message that we reprint here, in its entirety:
"That’s It, Folks. At this juncture in my life at the age of 78.6, all I can say is, with sincerest of thoughts – I did the job. I’ve been doing the job in music since 1964 when I wrote my first song. I did my first painting in 1975 and I haven’t stopped, but I have slowed down to painting blue rabbits. You have to look and you have to listen. Please. Look and listen.
If someone wants to listen, they can try one of my thirty albums. I recommend a recent one called Canuckian. The book Alien (by Nadia Halim) tells my story well. I’ve also written a work of fiction, a novella called The Family Embolism. My children’s picture book Joe vs Beaver is not yet published. I’ve had several books of my portraiture published by ECW Press (WorkingWomen, Joe’s Politicians, Joe’s Toronto, Neighbours) as well as a book of landscapes called Joe’s Ontario. One of the more interesting books I’ve written, still unpublished, is Mendelson Joe; A Man and His Philosophy. It’s a geography book so to speak – where I’ve been. My most recently published (ECW Press) work Joetry covers song lyrics going back to the 1960s.
In the process of writing songs and letters to the editor, I learned how to write. I was driven to write as I believe I exist as a vessel for free speech and that free speech was often published by newspapers. My long-time friend, artist and activist Anne Hansen of Victoria, lives by the quote “democracy is not a spectator sport”. Letter-writing was one of my forms of participating in our democracy.
My vast body of paintings includes portraits of Canadians you may have known such as Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Dr. Robert Bonda,r to name a few. I thank everyone who sat for portraits throughout the years. But there have also been many portraits for which the people did not sit for me, my political and social commentary paintings. I’ve done Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Rob Ford, Mike Harris, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Pierre Poilievre, Conrad Black and many more. Some will know of the numerous depictions of politicians as rectal orifices that I did. It began as a series called Liars for which I was the grateful recipient of a Canada Council Senior A Grant. I am indebted to Canada Council for the Arts. My landscape paintings are celebrations of what is possible. Beauty is my healer. You have to look.
I’ve learned my craft the only way I know how. I’m a self-taught writer, painter, and musician. It’s the way I learn. I did the job.
Medically speaking, I’m shaking and rattling as it’s been over five years since Parkinson’s Disease surfaced. Parkinson’s is a dead end for me. Parkinson’s interrupts my creative flow of writing, painting and making music to say the least. I have ended my job as a multi-media artist with the provision of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) on February 7, 2023. I see MAID as a sign of a civilized society. To be born Canadian is a great blessing. We have free speech. We have healthcare. We have MAID. Thank you Canada."
His comrades and admirers were quick to pay tribute and recall memorable encounters with Mendelson Joe, and their comments and stories are worthy of distribution. Here are some.
Gary Topp, Toronto concert promoter (on Facebook): "Very sad to have lost one of Canada’s truly unique individuals, M. Joe / Joe Mendelson. For all his artistic talents, it is a disgrace that he’s never been recognized in the high degree he deserved. Always outspoken, always a concerned Canadian, often contrary, always entertaining, sometimes hard to get along with, ahead of the curve and sometimes not…I’ve always considered Joe a friend and a supporter. I’m glad he’s no longer in pain. The memories of our friendship and artifacts from his exceptional output will never be forgotten.
AGO and McMichael, get your shit together. A retrospective is deserving, something that should have happened many times while he was alive."
Mike McKenna (Joe's bandmate in Mainline) to CP: “Joe was a unique, talented and sensitive man, and he will be dearly missed.”
Jane Harbury (Toronto music publicist) to FYI: "Joe was doing a week at [music venue] the Riverboat. As an early self-promoter, he created a sandwich board that went over his head and covered the front and back. The board said 'Joe Mendelson [as he called himself then] at The Riverboat tonight,' and he paraded up Yonge Street wearing the signs!"
Brian Blain on FB: "I met Joe Mendelson in January 1972 when I came up from the Eastern Townships for a recording session with Fraser & DeBolt at the spanking new Manta Sound (I think we were the first paying customers). At the end of the session, Joe said he had to leave because he was auditioning bass players for his band. I said I'd like to try out but I didn't have a bass. He said come along and he'd get me a bass. The rehearsal hall had half a dozen bass players anxiously awaiting Joe but you can imagine no one was very anxious to lend their bass to a potential "rival." One of them, Ted Purdy, did offer his bass (a Rickenbacker as I recall - my least favourite bass) and I always thought it was some kind of karmic retribution that it was Ted that got the gig. He was a true gentleman and I never forgot his generosity or Joe's openness in giving this kid from Quebec a shot at the big time. These are the things we remember - not the accolades or after-parties."
Bob Wiseman on FB: ·"Twenty-five years ago Mendelson Joe gave me a guitar, a Guild. Joe said motorcyclists are in less accidents than other drivers, "Do you know why that is Bob? Why is that, Joe? Because drivers of cars can get in more accidents, one accident for us is often death." Made sense.
. He was very strict about a lot of things. When you went over to his house, especially the first time, within a second or two of the door, he would point your attention to the hand painted sign by the shoes. RULES OF THE HOUSE #1: Touch No Art. #2: See Rule #1." - Bob Wiseman
Kurt Swinghammer (on FB): "In 1997 I recorded Joe in my home studio in Kensington Market. He played guitar on a song called My Golden Friend from an indie CD I produced for local visual artist/musician Michael D’Amico. I was quite excited and honoured that Thee Joe was strumming his old axe in my place. When I was in Grade 9, his band Mainline sat down on the stage in the gym of Clarke High School in Newcastle and played a set of blues that you couldn’t possibly dance to. I became an instant fan and bought their albums and basically taught myself how to play guitar by playing along with Stink. Thank you for the music, the painting of Prime Minister Mulroney with an asshole for a mouth, and for the sage words of advice. RIP."
Burt Bacharach, one of the most successful pop songwriters and composers of the last 70 years and a Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award winner, died on Feb. 8, at age 94, of natural causes,
In his Guardian obituary, Alexis Petridis noted that "Bacharach first had hits in the 1950s, Magic Moments among them, but it was as the 1960s dawned, and his partnership with Hal David blossomed that his career ignited. They started writing one impermeable classic after another – to the songs already mentioned you can add The Look of Love, I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself, Wives and Lovers, I Say a Little Prayer, (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, Make It Easy on Yourself and I’ll Never Fall in Love Again among umpteen others. The songs came in such profusion and were of such an astonishing quality, Bacharach and David made amassing a catalogue the equal to anything written in that decade look weirdly effortless."
The AP obituary stated that "Over the past 70 years, only Lennon-McCartney, Carole King and a handful of others rivaled his genius for instantly catchy songs that remained performed, played and hummed long after they were written. He had a run of top 10 hits from the 1950s into the 21st century, and his music was heard everywhere from movie soundtracks and radios to home stereo systems and iPods, whether Alfie and I Say a Little Prayer or I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, and This Guy’s in Love with You.
"Dionne Warwick was his favourite interpreter, but Bacharach, usually in tandem with lyricist Hal David, also created prime material for Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and many others. Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra were among the countless artists who covered his songs, with more recent performers who sang or sampled him including White Stripes, Twista and Ashanti. Walk On B” alone was covered by everyone from Warwick and Isaac Hayes to the British punk band the Stranglers and Cyndi Lauper."
A major Canadian connection to Burt Bacharach was the fact that he attended McGill University in Montreal, graduating from there with a Bachelors degree in Music in 1948. The Montreal Gazette notes "he reportedly wrote his first song, The Night Plane to Heaven, while studying at McGill. But as Bacharach told the Gazette’s Bernard Perusse in 2008, his years at the university weren’t a happy time for him. The music faculty was then a long way from its current state-of-the-art status, Perusse reported him saying. Read more on his Montreal days here.
Amongst those paying tribute to Bacharach were many Canadian artists. On Facebook, Paul Anka posted this: "My most talented friend of 60 years Burt Bacharach, has left behind an enormous legacy. He will be remembered as one of the true geniuses who inspired & influenced an unprecedented amount of us in the gifted field of songwriting. May he rest in peace. He will indeed be sadly missed."
Also on Facebook, Toronto musicians Blair Packham and Kurt Swinghammer reminisced fondly about a dinner they had with Bacharach (organised by Mike Myers), and others in a Toronto restaurant. Swinghammer has long been very vocal in calling Bacharach his favourite songwriter, and his post reads (in part): "I’d spent my whole life loving his music and his persona. Admiring that he chose a black woman to interpret and represent his material. Respecting that he didn’t make up a stage name to whitewash his heritage. Accepting the challenge of learning how to play his uniquely complex songs and learning so much in the process... Gratefully following Lori Cullen’s suggestion of putting on The Way To San Jose - an annual tribute show at Hugh’s Room with an ever-changing cast of great musicians. Painting his portrait fourteen times and exhibiting at the hallowed Music Gallery."
Trugoy the Dove (born David Jolicoeur), one-third of the famed rap triumvirate De La Soul, has died, at age 54. The cause of death has not been disclosed, but he had been dealing with congestive heart failure in recent years.
De La Soul was part of the Grammys’ Hip-Hop tribute performance last week, but Trugoy wasn’t onstage with his group mates.
Considered one of the most innovative acts in rap history, De La Soul made their mark particularly in the early Nineties, as a positive contrast to the gangsta rap scene. Trugoy's wordplay and lyricism helped the group become legendary.
The group signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989, and subsequent albums included the classic 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul Is Dead, Buhloone Mindstate, Stakes Is High, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, and AOI: Bionix. 3 Feet High and Rising, their debut album in 1989, reached number one on Billboard's top R&B/hip-hop album chart and often appears on lists of the greatest albums of all time. It included hits The Magic Number and Me, Myself and I.
Last month, the group's classic albums were made available for streaming online. BBC News reports that "complex licensing issues around De La Soul's use of hundreds of samples had held back the move until now. De La Soul's first six records will be released on digital streaming services for the first time on 3 March."
Following news of Trugoy’s death, many in the rap community paid homage. Erick Sermon called De La Soul “one of the best rap groups” in rap history in an Instagram tribute to Trugoy.