Guido Basso, the masterful musician who for decades was a distinguished pillar of Canada’s jazz scene, has died. He was 85.
Basso 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.
Known for the lyricism of his flugelhorn work on jazz ballads as well as quick, incisive bebop trumpeting, he espoused the theory that one “attacks the trumpet and makes love to a flugelhorn.”
Basso’s death was announced by his wife, Kristin, who said he went “so quickly and so peacefully.”
Born in Montreal in 1937, 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 organzing 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.
Basso was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.